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Laura Ferguson:

The Consciousness of the Body

We experience the world through our bodies, and the singularity of each life experience gives its story, its meaning, but also threatens to trap us in the isolation of self. I became interested in the visual imagery of the body's interior because of my own physical differentness, caused by scoliosis, a deformity of the spine and rib cage. My body's asymmetry creates the need for a subtle effort of balancing, in my physical relationship to gravity and space, and in my psychic sense of centeredness and wholeness. The conscious awareness of bodily processes that usually unfold by themselves has made me finely attuned to my bones and muscles, nerves and senses, like a dancer. With a brush or pencil or crayon as an extension of my hand, I have sought to find a voice, a process, through which my body could express this awareness in visual form.

I begin by floating thinned oil paints, blended with bronze powders, on water. Then, laying paper onto the water's surface, I transfer the floating image. Color by color, I repeat the process, superimposing veils of transparent texture, some granular, some softly diffuse, onto the surface of the drawing paper. The dense drops of color spread out as if magnified under a microscope, echoing the cellular forms of nature: an opening into the secret cosmos of inner space. Drawing on the paper's surface (with charcoal, colored pencil, pastel, oil crayon) I heighten, shade and connect these cellular underlayers, so that the resulting figurative images seem to take their form from the bones and blood and veins of the body's interior.

My desire to visualize my own scoliosis has been the impetus for a long (and ongoing) learning-through-drawing process that has included a thorough study of anatomy, drawing from the human skeleton, and learning to read x-rays in order to conceptualize their information three-dimensionally. The anomalous nature of my own skeleton was the key that revealed to me the interesting truth that our bodies are as individualized within as without.

What if we could reimagine our inner-body images, moving them as far away as possible from the usual textbook diagrams, the disturbing assocations of disease and death, or the loss of ownership that comes from surrendering ourselves to the diagnostic interpretations of the medical experts? What if the surface of the skin could turn into a veil through which we caught glimpses of our inner selves ... lit by candlelight, relaxed yet vibrant, engaged in the act of love? How thrilled would we be then, to uncover within us this graceful and personal inner space, infinitely detailed, intricately structured, related in intriguing ways to the natural world?