Teri Frame at Platteforum
I met with Teri Frame at her temporary studio at PlatteForum (Frame is the current creative resident there) to talk about her newest body of work. It’s an interesting time to speak with her as she is in full production mode. Frame is pushing out a lot of work right now; she is just coming off residencies at the MacDowell Colony and Interlochen Arts Academy. I’m a bit obsessed with studio visits in the moment; they’re so different from an interview or a review of an exhibition. The artist is in the process of creating work, and while there are those researchable starting moments, the end results are often not quite determined.
Currently, Frame is wrapping her mind around the complexities of visual literacy, imagery, and the way in which a viewer might complete the work within the parameters of her planned final product. She’ll be altering her entire body with clay—starting a new, long series, the first of which is based on The Romance of Alexander the Great and his travels to India where he met bands of women. She’ll make one long video of Alexander’s description of six types of women (the Amazon women with cut-off left breast, six-handed women, horned and bearded women, women covered in hair resting on rocks, women with long teeth and bristly haired bodies, and the most beautiful long-locked women).
A video of a morphing body will be combined with another video of an “ever-changing environment” in postproduction to make one final video. This work is a continuation of her research into how “non-normative” bodies have often been shunted from the human realm to that of the animal. Disfigurements in the form and surface of the human body are often marginalized. Those who bear such marks are estranged from public life and are often animalized. While I can’t see her final marks, I have a sense of the look and feel of it through her past work—samples of which I’ve included.
For the viewer, at this moment, it’s all about the process. In the large studio at PlatteForum, tables are full of 14 plaster molds of ArtLab students’ faces. The initial wax mold of each face is used to create a dimensional head from clay that is placed on a base for the next step of the work process. A large green screen is in the process of being built on one wall, and her DIY light kits are being fabricated for the next step in creating claymations.
All that technical stuff is fine and dandy. There’s plenty of meat there for the technicians, but when you go visit you should look at Frame’s worktables where she keeps stacks of books that detail where her research is leading. Frame is interested in contemporary culture’s ideation on beauty and learning about pop culture from her students, but she’s also pulling apart the structure, too.
Frame talked about having just read On Ugliness by Umberto Eco where Eco asks, “Is repulsiveness, too, in the eye of the beholder? And what do we learn about that beholder when we delve into his aversions?” These questions are of great seriousness to Frame as well. She’s getting into tricky territory looking at the history of otherness, gender and race—a white woman talking about race, ethnic rhinoplasty, and the history of eugenics can make people cringe. A past critique of her work accused her of performing race similar to blackface except with the whiteness of porcelain clay.
Here is where a studio visit gets interesting, Frame is actively mulling over the effects of display or how her chosen method interacts with, undermines, props up, or elaborates her work.
Is her work blackface in disguise? On some level, I’m sure that history is there but I don’t think she is doing it as voyeurism or as base entertainment—Frame is performing complex critiques of notions of beauty rooted in Greek ideals and based on the philosophical constructs of perfection. Somehow, dominant white Christian culture has transformed incomplete remnants of unpainted porcelain and Greek statuary into a thousand years of advertising—imprinting Western culture with an unattainable sense of the sublime.
I highly encourage a visit with Teri Frame while she’s an artist-in-residence at PlatteForum; I have only touched on a small part of our conversation about her fascinating project and process.
Exhibition: opens August 1; continues through August 23, 2013
PlatteForum is open to the public Tuesday through Friday, noon – 4pm or by appointment 303.893.0791.
During exhibitions, PlatteForum is open
Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon – 4pm
1610 Little Raven Street, Suite 135
Denver, Colorado 80202
Other related resources-
Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies
The History of Ethnic Surgery from visible to invisible to visible again – http://www.kathydavis.info/articles/Michael_Jackson.pdf
Ann Millett-Gallant‘s The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art
Courageous Conversations About Race
Read more about Frame’s work: “Pre-human, Post-human, Inhuman” review by Mark Nathan Stafford, Ceramics: Art and Perception International Journal (Australia).
This series of photographs and objects were made during Teri Frame’s artist’s residency at the MacDowell colony early this year and “are influenced by Victorian Era portraits and lithophanes in the form of “complexion fans.” Lithophanes were made of fine porcelain, a material that, when thin enough, is translucent against a light source, and in the Victorian Era, they were often used as candle screens and lampshades. There are a few remaining “porcelain fans” in certain collections. Also referred to as “complexion fans,” these face-sized screens were employed by those who socialized about the fireplace. The screens were held to protect the face from the heat of the fire, which caused facial flushing (considered unattractive and vulgar at the time, as fair “porcelain-like” skin was the English ideal). The images found within the photographs and the lithophane complexion fans are of an English-descended woman (myself) who dons facial prosthetics modeled after the noses and mouths of contemporary pre-operative “ethnic rhinoplasty” patients. By simultaneously donning these masks and the costuming of the colonizing body within the nineteenth century, I examine Western beauty paradigms and their relationships to the not so distant past. ”