Salt Kissed Altar by Claire Cansick

Salt Kissed Altar

I’ll happily showcase my work in exhibitions—solo, group, and online—but I rarely attach my own image to it because I want the work to stand on its own. I don’t use an avatar of my face and seldom post photos of myself in relation to my work, except when absolutely necessary.

Of course, my work reflects me—how could it not? As Lucien Freud said, “Everything is autobiographical and everything is a portrait,” and he was right. Any artist claiming to exclude themselves from their work is essentially fibbing. Even if the work is declared to be just about paint or a block of flat color, excluding all previous art world definitions, it still conveys an opinion on the subject by exerting control over something you feel passionately about. In other words, it is still about you.

When I read that “to sell your work is also selling yourself,” I think, I’m not for sale. My artwork has nothing to do with my appearance, which, as a woman, is judged based on the male gaze—a pervasive part of my life that I resolutely reject. I feel strongly about this, yet I feel exposed saying it out loud. Am I challenging the patriarchy? I don’t know!! I just know how I feel about being seen and judged as a woman. I have never dressed classically feminine because I don’t like the attention it attracts, also why I don’t attach my image to my social media or website.

I represent myself in my work by tracing my path through the landscape—a view through my eyes. Recently, shadows have crept in, placing me behind the lens with the sun at my back, which I rather enjoy. I’m there, but you can’t see me. The shadow is more than a figurative outline; it refers to the shadow self, a psychological term for the darker side of our nature. We all have one. When casting a shadow upon a wave, I am often in imminent danger of being swept away, engulfed, which references a precarious grip on an ever-changing life. I embrace that—being swept away by a wave is a joyous event for me. I deeply love the sea and relish its power over me. Using a shadow parallels my non-self, as in Buddhist philosophy. My impermanence, my inclusion and equality in the whole natural world, my presence—just being, not judging.

All this in a shadow. It isn’t a gimmick, a ruse nor a contrivance.