Sifting the Self


January 29th, 2024

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Genre/Medium: Clear and Matte Mylar, Black Alcohol Ink, Isopropyl Alcohol, Water, Gold Leaf, Copper Leaf, Metal Flakes, Leaf Adhesive, Pencil, Charcoal Pencil, Color Pencil, Light 

About the work: “Sifting the Self” is a prequel to my Project 1 (“Forging Forwards”) that looks at Psyche’s mythological first task set by the goddess Aphrodite–the looming golden figure at the top of my piece–as punishment for being so beautiful.

Psyche is given barrels of mixed grains and seeds and told to sort them out individually, which initially overwhelms her with despair. I sought to depict this in the most personal way I could through my own viewpoint of Psyche and her growth. Central to the composition is Psyche during her first task, which can be said to be the lowest point in her story, kneeling and looking at an overflow of jumbled grains (depicted with metal flakes) in tears. Behind her are three other states of self: kidnapped Psyche to the left, the naive and nervous young woman, attempting to look at her husband’s face with an oil lamp; sacrifice Psyche to the upper center, the resigned and desolate girl, dressed in funeral clothes and abandoned by her family to the gods’ whims; and hero Psyche to the right, become the protagonist of her divine trials through adversity and moving on to her second task with sheep shears in hand.

To me, beauty is in growth despite obstacles and bravery despite fear, which I’ve tried to channel into Psyche in this artistically challenging multi-layered piece of many mediums. The sifting of the seeds is a visual metaphor for how Psyche, and myself and perhaps this piece’s audience, can only grow by confronting and challenging ourselves in various ways; learning from our past to move on to a better future.

In a meta way, this piece challenged me a lot as an artist to really achieve this complex artistic vision rooted in feelings and ideas using an eclectic jumble of difficult mediums (fun fact: metal leaf and alcohol ink look best with frontal lighting (metal leaf will be very dark if fully backlit), pencil and other mark-making on mylar looks best with rear lighting) (another fun fact: don’t try to wash alcohol ink off your hands with acetone…). I ran into so many troubles while making this piece, but that also means I learned a lot and really grew a lot as an artist. If you see this piece in person, it has many more faces that can’t really be captured in images (due to the complex way it interacts with light); I challenge you to try to see it in at least 3 different ways outside of your initial impression!

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Date Added: 01-29-2024
Credit: Angela Huang

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