The NHS tell us: ‘A scar is a mark left on the skin after a wound or injury has healed. Scars are a natural part of the healing process.’
The Oxford dictionary defines Scars as: ‘A mark left on the skin or within body tissue where a wound, burn, or sore has not healed completely and fibrous connective tissue has developed.’ also ‘ A lasting effect of grief, fear, or other emotion left on a person’s character by an unpleasant experience.‘ and finally ‘A mark left on something following damage of some kind.‘
I have underlined the key areas within the definition. Thus we see that scars can be either seen or unseen.
Notice here that a scar is a visual sign of the body healing itself – thus evidence that the body is working.
Scars may be seen as a positive or a negative thing.
In Germany from 1825, facial scars on men, achieved at battle were said to be highly revered. Classed as a “badge of honour”. Sometimes students (even up to the present day) self harm to give themselves the look of this type of scar.
Reasons for scars
Having made some enquiry into this, I have so far found:
- Self Harm (scars may be left as a cry for help, or there as they cannot be changed)
- Accident (from child hood falls to adult uncertainties)
- Chosen (in the form of elected surgery, which has been required and planned)
- Unplanned surgery (no choice in the matter as to time and unforeseen circumstance)
- Invisible scars (emotional memories and intense feelings surrounding an event or time period)
There are of course many more, but that outlines the basics.
I have reasons for my interest in Scars.
- I personally don’t have any significant outward scars; apart from the usual falls and breaks which happen over time. However internally I do.
- My mother has her own visual scar – post surgery after Breast Cancer.
- My father has a “heart scar” where he was fitted with a device to restart his heart after having Cardiac Arrest.
Using the three bullet points above, I discern that the scars I am discussing fall into these categories:
- Invisible scars (centring this one around myself and PTSD and other emotional effects.
- Chosen / Elected scars (in the case of my mother, she had to have surgery for cancer – thus she sees the scar as a positive, she had to get it to stay alive. The same could be said for my father, if he had not chosen to have life saving heart surgery….)
The above subject matter is difficult to tap into, as said, it resulted in my own invisible “scars”; however so far within my practice I have held true to using personal themes as foundations for my work. Thus I feel that this is the time to approach this theme.
Positive or a negative?
The answer to the above could in fact shape my research and outcomes. I see it as personal preference; do we hide, or bask in the evidence that we have healed?
Lets put it in blunt terms:
- I don’t like the physical or emotional effects of my own “scars”, yet they make me who I am and have given me a wider and larger conception of life and understanding. It has also become the driving force behind my art; using the negative past to colour the present, in mostly a positive way; creating new out of the broken.
- My parents, especially my mother could hide from her scar, yet she chose to embrace it (choosing to not have a reconstruction after evasive surgery) To her, it is a symbol that she got through it.
Thus the above bullets could fall back into the category of Kintsugi (for want of sounding “worthy”)
Art based Research
Scars in art – textiles – sculpture
A student in her forth year, with a specialist interest in areas surrounding mental health.
Her work focused on embroidery and imagery surrounding the body:
I like her use of beading and materials used primarily for adornment to be used as scar symbolism. This takes the sadness away from a scar and displays a “beautiful mark” – this of course harks back to the feeling of Kintsugi and making something broken better.
The material choice is clever, with nylon tights in a nude colour depicting skin, coupled with beading to illustrate blood and damage. Again the use of adorning materials makes the piece beautiful. I see the use of tights symbolises something which can get as close to our skin as possible.
Sonja Bäumel (AT) works across various disciplines including art, design, fashion and biological practice. The interest in Sonja’s ongoing research and creative process lies in the human body and the unexpected diversity of the human ecosystem, in its ‘social network’ and in our changing perspective on the human body. Thus she tied in well with my research material at present.
Her entire focus surrounds skin, which she depicts and outputs using a wide variety of media.
She often looks at the layers and how outside influences can have an affect on our skin, such as damage and bacteria.
What interested me most about her work, was the links between science and art. She uses her scientific knowledge to compliment her art practice. This shows how we can glean inspiration from a variety of areas and also how we can use our personal specialisms within our art.
For myself, science was never the go to topic, however English Literature was. You will see how I have used my own poetry in the past to convey messages and meanings through my art work.
‘Can art born of unspeakable horrors express something other than the soul-scarring pain and trauma that forever mark its creator?’
This was a question raised by those viewing this artists work.
She lived through the horror of Nazi Germany, thus her art became a healing from this.
I enjoy the use of mixed media she employs and how without saying it, she manages to convey hurt within her outcomes:
Learning her history makes me appreciate her artwork more. She took a job at a Manhattan department store, only to discover that she had debilitating claustrophobia, which prevented her from riding in elevators or venturing far from home. About four years after arriving in the United States, Baron suffered her first nervous breakdown. Years later, she recalled, her uncle, a doctor in the Bronx, “gave me some sedatives, even took me to some psychiatrists, bought me two dresses and told me above all to keep my state of mind an absolute secret from the outside world.”
Baron recognized that her condition was a reaction to the traumatic events she had experienced during her childhood and a hindrance to her ability to interact socially with ease.
Thus we see an example of how past events can catch up with you; something I know well.
In one interview, she explained her material choices: ‘To make her collages, Baron used scraps of fabric, thread, paper, ink, watercolor and chalk. She also cut thin sheets of copper into the shapes of birds, human figures or other subjects, inked both sides of her cutouts and used a small etching press to print them onto materials she would later bring into her collage compositions. In them, stripes often allude to torn flags and the artist’s loathing of nationalism. Her use of string, she once noted, was “mostly for texture.”’
Thus not ground-breaking for the time, yet it is what she did with them; this is what provokes our thinking and makes us question her pain.
Reminding ourselves of the question raised at the beginning, her work could be seen as visual evidence how humans react and the wider picture of cruelty as a whole.
Anne Futterman Collier
On the subject of scars, this phycologist wrote an article on the healing properties of art for women. Some of the information was worth looking at, as it relates to my subject. She also uses current art as examples:
The artist above, Neta Amir, chose to look at comfort blankets and how we protect ourselves from scars.
Gizella K Warburton
Her work explores ‘an intuitive response to linear, textural and light detail within landscape and surface’. Mark making to create abstract compositions, Gizella draws with paper, cloth and thread. Her approach is not technically-led, but rather a ‘felt’ process; she describes her relationship with making as ‘visceral’.
It is not her use of media which attracted my attention, rather the subtle way she has conveyed her subject matter.
The layers are said to represent the emotional hurts of life, the scar marks are depicted in a linear form.
Its not a technique choice I would choose to follow, yet visually gathering a wealth of depictions widens my own mind.
Predominantly a performance artist, I was drawn to her work because of her dalliance with fabrics in conjunction with the area of memory and scars.
All the materials she used had some relation to the body, I.E, clothing or material which could symbolise the human form.
I found her reasoning for performance art over a more permeant display interesting. She states: ‘memory is the most permeant architecture’.
That can be true, as sometimes our memories define us and build us, if we let them
The title of her work often gives away the subject matter, for example her ‘Scar Cymbal’ collection:
I love the holes and gaps within her models clothing; is this symbolic of damage and scars?
Why are the areas with gaps chosen?
What’s the model thinking / supposed to be thinking?
I love the questions this artist raises.
Look at the makeup…..
This is reminiscent of clay – again symbolic of damage.
Performance art is not something I have looked into for my own personal practice, but I do like the idea of fashioning the skin, sending a message and the photography behind it; thus I see these areas being implemented into my work.
Looks at scars under a microscope. I like this version, as it takes it a step away from the literal and cuts the subject matter into pieces and on a personal to her level.
She used clay as a medium for a large body of work depicting scars up close:
This exerpt from her content page on this piece is interesting as it relates strongly to my research areas at present:
‘The piece appears to be stitched-together, like a patchwork person. The silver is reminiscent of the Japanese technique of kintsugi, repairing broken ceramics by filling cracks with precious metals, thereby increasing both the material and sentimental value of the object. Through the care taken after breakage, the work becomes more beautiful and cherished. The silver as borders was planned; however, serendipity often plays some part in the creation of art. Through the process of firing, a section of the sculpture was damaged when a small pocket of trapped air expanded in the kiln with violent consequences. Deliberately embracing kintsugi, Lindsay replaced the absent space with the elaborate filigree form.’
Note the use of scars and Kintsugi here; thus the Kintsugi becomes the healing factor from the scars.
What could my own marriage of these areas look like?
Her techniques and material choices include clay and gold binding materials, many precious. I wonder what my own could be?
Again moving into sculpture, the work of Bond ties in well with the scars theme as well as Kintsugi meanings.
Her work is said to question what it means to be human, which is an interesting multi faceted statement. We will all have our own versions or answers to this – thus is this why a transparent outer has been employed?
Her comments for the above piece and those surrounding it within a recent exhibition are important. Apparently, it has all come from an exhibition named: Perfect Imperfection – The Art of Healing which explored psychological trauma and healing as a physical narrative through the sculpted portrait. This is something I feel fits with my own work foundations and what is beneath my current practice. She employed methods of destruction, as it were, by the Kintsugi emulation within the collective pieces. What I like about the work, is its transparency – is this a window of invitation to what is going on within her?
What to be inspired by myself through her work…..
- Transparency in some form – what would my personal employment of this form be?
- The art of healing and trauma – this is what my own research into Scars and Kintsugi has so far been exploring – but how can I produce visual outcomes based on this?
- She uses sculptured portrait as her structure to tell her tale – what is my own?
Daniela Cavazos Madrigal
I enjoyed this artists depictions of scars in the rag rug form:
Not a medium I have used before – still quite literal in form once the subject matter is named. I wonder how this topic could be dealt with in a more subtle manner?
Her website opens with the comments:
‘Creating what is abstract at first glance, but is actually a record of life – beauty from pain and destruction.
A metaphor for the scars we all have and that make us who we are.
We all suffer tragedy and pain; it is part of the human existence. We can choose to remember it and learn from it. Change it into something beautiful or we can choose to forget it, ignore it, cover it up and risk returning to it later to be hurt again.
These marks are of Berlin and they remain to remind everyone of the communal history. I became entranced with these details while exploring the city, these marks of the society’s’ history and the acknowledgement of their past. They choose to remember, discuss and live with it as part of their being.
The wounds spoke to me, and in them I saw not only the anger and hurt of the past but the beauty of their existence.
The way the city acts as a corporeal body for the culture at large, exposing it’s scars and accepting them’
This site is of particular interest, as it gathers together a range of artists who have looked at the area of scars and repair…..
Again this could come under the umbrella of Kintsugi, the concept of repair and making the object beautiful again. I enjoy the obvious nature of these samples, they are their own “scars”; life and wear scars, which have happened through use. The idea that they haven’t been invisibly mended makes for more interesting outcomes. For example the hole on the stripy shirt has been embraced, not repaired as such. The stitching highlights the flaw – yet it makes the garment exciting.
Known for her skill in mending.
I have observed her work recently at the V&A, thus I can discuss it with visual knowledge.
The Royal College of Art said about her work: ‘The human experience carries a vulnerable weight. Sometimes it is easier to speak through an object, and Celia Pym is making art that heals the heart.’
At first glace, he see darning – an item made better or given new life. Look further and we discern the reason for the darning and the thought process behind it.
She seems to send a message through the garment; spoken in stitches and the care which has gone into the repair.
Repair in this form could be likened to scars – the acknowledgement that they are there, yet both methods, i.e. the bodies own natural way of healing our “holes” or in fact darning knitwear to heal the literal damage, the holds – they both mend and still allow us to see that they have been “mended” – this is no invisible repair.
I wonder what could be developed from thinking surrounding this?
Above, the piece to the left is a collaboration with Freddie Robins, with Pym doing the darning. I like how facial features have been laid out in a knitted form – rare to see in this way.
The piece to the right is colourful in its own way – a statement piece, as if it is celebrating the fact it has been mended. This quality is worth contemplating – again coming under the ethos of Kintsugi – celebrating the flawed with obvious mending.
Recently began a body of work on Emotional Repair, which I felt tied with my subject matter.
She says of this work: ‘Emotional Repair covers a wide range of personal and emotive subjects focused around loss and remembering and includes work made over the last two years as well as brand new pieces currently in development. Much of this work is deeply personal and touches on subjects which are hard to talk about so it may seem strange that I want to share them in this very public way, but we all know just how healing and cathartic it can be to make things when having a tough time.’
The products of this body of work are not necessarily obvious in their intention:
I find that the names sometimes tell us more than the imagery – for example the piece to the left is named ‘desperation darning’. This evokes a sense of the emotional mind set of the maker and the reason behind the piece itself.
The display has been given careful thought and does not isolate or camouflage the pieces. This is something I like to be aware of for my own practice.
Her work merits more research, for example within this exhibition, she has taken in not only her own work but collaborative resources. Looking towards historic influences and a sense of setting, she researched the lives of those who lived within the exhibition building – finding stories of loss and loss before a finish – many textile pieces were never finalised – thus even looking at these can evoke a sense of loss; we wonder what happened to the makers?
Within her own work, she looked at hair within the umbrella of genetic inheritance and the mourning hankie, which was a cultural item I had never heard of.
Her work has been made in a age sympathetic style to tie in and merge with the rest of the actual antique pieces within the exhibition – which shows a thoughtful response with care and respect. The sentiments are timeless and I can see so much potential for this body of work to grow. I.E. What else could be done with hair? What else could be written on a hankie and why would we in the first place? What textile or other craft based techniques could be used to emulate emotional repair?
This of course links in to the winder understanding of scars; which has been my main focus here.
Scars in music lyrics
I generally veer away from using other peoples songs as research material, however this one I do hold dear:
Using source material as per above, along with my own poetry, thoughts and understandings, I imagine I will begin creating a cross section of work styles based upon this subject matter.
Scars to bring good out of bad
This relates personally to my family. My mother has had Breast Cancer twice and has the scars to prove it. One way of dealing with it is shown above, where this survivor got a tattoo made to fit around her scar – again this could come under the Japanese thinking of making something bad good – Kintsugi.
Many years ago, I made my own depiction based on my mother, using her underwear as a basis to work from:
This piece was shown back in 2011 within my first exhibition. Based on a mastectomy post surgery bra. I wonder what new work could come from this personal base of both emotional and physical scarring? What would my representation be now, as years have gone by and my art and understanding has developed?
I want to keep focused on the meaning of Kintsugi, as I feel even looking back on my previous work from years ago, it was a part of me before I knew it.
How could I work with this from my own personal point of view?
What about the family history, focusing on my mother and father and their “scars”?
Further thought and representation needed, along with research. An small investigation into the meaning of scars (further than I have already achieved) along with looking again at the personal meaning and the difference between the visible and invisible scars?
Another mix could be created here – under what may have scarred us – do we create a positive from it?
For example, when my mother got cancer and could not attend an event with me, she bought me a locket to wear for the day when she couldn’t be there. Thus she created her version of a Kintsugi moment, her mending of a situation. Could this be an area to contend with – the making of good from the flaws, the scars, the “bad”?
Subsequent thoughts based on research
I have looked at a few artists who deal in a variety of media. Yet I now need to create my own interpretation of this topic, using my own personal resources.
It is my plan to use this material for my subsequent research projects and also my personal specialism work.
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