Abby Brown

Pressure Points

APRIL 22 – 27, 2013

Artist Statement

In my “Pressure Points” series I am exploring a psychological space of tension between the freedom of individuality and restriction due to external pressures or expectations. Erich Fromm, a twentieth century German philosopher, explores this tension in “Escape from Freedom” (1941). In his book, Fromm distinguishes between “freedom from” external pressures and “freedom to” form one’s own worldview and lifestyle. He describes how when external pressures and preconceived notions are overcome, one must have their own ideals, morals, and worldview to replace the space left behind, or else a new external structure will simply replace the old one to prevent a sense of insecurity. In this way, he describes a concurrently occurring process of critically forming oneself while shedding preconceived notions.

In this series I am exploring my own experience wrestling with these opposing tensions. I am forming my own beliefs, practices, and worldview, or exercising the “freedom to” side of the equation, if you will, while at the same time struggling to escape the restrictions placed on who I am or who I can become which are dictated by societal pressures. These pressures originate from a wide array of sources, from the social or religious institutional level to personal relationships. I strive to find my way through life without letting these external pressures decide who I am and who I will become. My desire to fully exercise my “freedom to” collides with the restrictions placed on me by pressures from society, individuals, and institutions.

Fully realizing one’s individuality and freedom I believe is a lifelong process which slowly transitions from an old belief system dictated by our environment to one self-formed and exercised. While I consider this transition essential to my development as a person, there is always the danger of becoming comfortable within the security of a structured and dictated environment. To me, this is the ultimate danger which prevents the individual from realizing his or her potential. There are varying degrees of struggle present in my paintings representing the complacency I have or have not felt at different times, yet none of the figures look truly comfortable with their confinement.

In my paintings, I am using the gesturative energy and movement of the figure within a confined space as a metaphor for freedom of movement versus constriction. The figures remain cramped within the canvas. Tension is created by the negative space within the painting competing with the figure while the edges of the canvas cause the figure to conform to awkward or uncomfortable positions. This is similar to my reaction when faced with a force or external pressure restricting my freedom. As a free spirit trapped in a restrictive space, there is tension, frustration, and claustrophobia. In this way my paintings serve as metaphors for the psychological space of one trapped between freedom and restriction.

The act of creating this series has allowed me to reach a point of greater self-awareness in this process of self-development. I believe it is only through both self-awareness and environmental awareness that we are really able to grow to be more than what our society dictates. The figures in the paintings are faceless and without identity, and thus could function as a relatable metaphor for anyone who is experiencing these conflicting tensions between freedom and confinement, whether at a subconscious or conscious level.

About the Artist

Abby Brown is a senior double majoring in Studio Art and German with a minor in Art History. She comes from Boone, NC, and has participated in numerous class exhibits at the START Gallery as well as several independent juried shows. During her freshman year, she co-founded the student art club ARTnow and has continued to serve in a leading role in the group. Abby has also been assisting in the Intro. to Painting classes at Wake as a TA during her senior year. After graduation she plans on using her art education from Wake Forest as a jumping off point to pursue a career within the arts.

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