Detail View: CVPA Student Collection: 2014

Clemmer , Bliss
Bliss Clemmer
MFA - Fine Arts
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
oil on canvas
50.5 x 35.0
Bound There is great courage in vulnerability – the will to completely expose oneself, especially to another, in unveiling the barrier which shields one's deepest fears, desires, weaknesses, and even truths. I believe there is nothing in existence that compares to the fragility, yet tremendous fortitude possessed by the human heart. A dear friend of mine came into my life during a period of transformation when I needed him most. Growing strong together, our friendship developed into one of the most beautiful connections I have ever had, but nothing could have prepared either of us for the challenges we faced last year – the ones we continue to face. When I spoke to Jon Vieira about the initial concept of this painting, he felt as though it would be a vital opportunity for him to express his feelings of personal loss, his journey, and our friendship. One cannot simply isolate a specific state of emotion, rather, one must consider his condition in the present time, consisting of a spectrum of experience and sensation. The gaze of the figure serves as the portal into its realm. In Bound (fig. 2), it is the hand that primarily draws the viewer into the painting. The gesture is modest and gentle, as not to beckon or seduce the viewer, but to proffer an experience only if one is willing to acquiesce. In taking his hand, we notice the bandage that wraps around his wrist and hangs beneath him. Perhaps the hand is frail or wounded, but as we traverse the undulations of the band, we reach a broken antler through which it tucks and fixes. The deer bust, by which it belongs, rests somberly upon the ground. Its crestfallen placement suggests helplessness, and conversely through the wrap, the plea is traced back to the hand. The act of asking, though tentative and precarious, designates a profound faith that the empathy will be corresponded. I believe there is great courage in reaching a boundary, reaching out even further for someone else, and even more powerful still, when the compassion is reciprocated. Through our affinity, I created Bound to provide solace in the months following the suicide of his brother, Daniel. In representing a story so acataleptic, I proceeded with the utmost dignity and compassion, choosing the composition, props, and taxidermy very carefully. The circuit formed by the bandage alludes to the path before us. Though the distance is unclear, the composition circulates throughout his arms, back to the beginning, signifying its infinitude. The all-encompassing connection serves to unite both figures in a tender embrace. The more literal denotation for the wrap resides in its purpose to mend and to heal as it curls around both the forearm and the broken antler. During the spring of my first year of graduate school, I suffered a prolonged nerve injury, making it difficult to paint among other essential activities. This occurred around the same time Jon lost his brother. His wrist is bound to represent his willingness provide strength in place of my weakness – a gesture of unselfish compassion. For me, the act of tying a bandage around his hand and forearm for this project was a touching moment that truly epitomized our many conversations focusing on our determination to persevere. The tension of the wrap in the painting represents the fortitude of our bond, but conversely so, the tight hold of the ever-present struggles. The unity tying us together forms a lifeline to ultimately symbolize our commitment to support one another throughout the continuation of our journeys. Much like the sister paintings of this series, the taxidermy as a figure represents me in each piece. The decision to use this specific specimen was inspired by an accident that became a fitting choice. Last fall, I dedicated most of my semester to two futile paintings that I failed to resolve, despite my rigorous attempts. I accidently destroyed the taxidermy bust when working in my studio, and took on the disgusting and arduous task of repairing it. I remember the torpid feelings associated with injury and incompetence during this time in my graduate career. Among other integral supporters, Jon was a source of optimism and insight. He haphazardly offered himself as a model, which spiraled into further discussion, leading us to the concept for Bound. The undertaking deserved my absolute best efforts. And for Bound, I adopted the deer bust that was once shattered and now repaired as my champion and avatar. The placement of the animalistic subject in the composition signifies a gesture of loyal affection in a way similar to perhaps, a dog lying by one's side in a consoling manner. The deer renders itself vulnerable to the figure, accepting the confine of the bandage tied around the broken antler, in the same way I have embraced the much needed support brought forth by my friend. The sympathetic gaze averts from the viewer. Instead, it falls upon Jon's face with a subtle gleam of dim light, signifying a remnant of life within. The red of his shirt flickering within the glass of the eye serves as a faint pulse that could perhaps, ignite as a fire within – the will to persevere. Weakness is transient, not a defining characteristic of oneself. I believe that it is within these instances of admitted susceptibility that we open ourselves to something greater than what we can accomplish on our own. In moments such as these, humility can triumph over hubris. Especially in the studio environment, it is too easy for the artist to assume all credit for one's own triumphs, but seldom do we arrive at a moment of sheer revelation without inspiration, and at times, without the help of the ones we love. With grief so personal, it is unfathomable for me to truly understand Jon's struggle, though I have taken it upon myself to empathize and convey his expression in a way that resonates most with Jon – honesty. In Bound, Jon honors his brother by wearing Daniel's amber necklace and simple, red shirt. In the painting, the necklace is rendered in great detail to serve as a small, illuminating beacon to honor the spirit and memory of Daniel. The yellow emblem signifies that forever holds a different meaning for someone in mourning; the solid droplet shape hangs delicately over his heart like a frozen tear. The saturated, red shirt is intentionally simplified to serve as a foundation for the formal versatility in the portrait. The color red is significant to Jon's brother, representing his vibrant and brazen demeanor, but also symbolic of Jon's will to fight. The dark space encapsulating the figure in the final composition indicates this state of bereavement and the ambiguity of time. The pose resembles strength in the stature of his shoulders, but tranquil as his hands fall delicately over his lap. Jon's portrait, in all of its luminous complexity, captivates his fateful hour – a moment when he was far, far away from me in a place in his mind where I could never reach. The sensation stayed with me throughout the entire painting process, and it is my foremost aspiration to truly express the immensity of his passion through my work.