SJ Willis

Mind in Flux

APRIL 22 – APRIL 29, 2022

Honors Candidate Exhibition

The natural world inspires my art, helping to navigate the relationship between cognitive and physical realities of existence. Near the end of my adolescence, I began ruminating over social confines related to the gender binary – deeply troubled by its functions, I turned to the natural world. Grappling with these feelings of dysphoria and strife ushered me to lessons maintained in nature.

The element of water allows for ambiguity in form and metaphysical cleansing, suggesting shifts in energy. Similarly, the annual rotation of seasons mirrors that of queer expression as it is a process of constant, cyclical development and release. These reflections struck a desire to visually explore documenting intrapersonal relationships to gender fluid identity and expression.

In my recent work, I have been drawn to iterative and meditative processes that enhance dynamic motion in still images. Focusing on utilizing my hands has offered catharsis, a return to self, and maturation of my identity. In this space, representations of the human form foster ties between nature and anatomy, capturing the fluidity of gender through equally shifting images of nature.

The cherry wood as a textural subsurface reinforces the meshing of body and landscape, creating an encapsulating space for the viewer while simulating my own psyche. Traditionally cherry trees represent new beginnings, a resurgence. This wood was sourced locally from Reynolda Gardens, tree logs that aged out of an allée being revived in the garden space. The process of the wood retrieval was deeply satisfying – examining methods of manipulation, spending time coating the bark, and engaging with the wet red-toned concentric circles of the logs. This vessel is critically tethered to the imagery as the photos were produced in proximity to the resting place of the wood, now subjects come to rest on its surface.

The multimedia space is meant to provoke the viewer into contemplation of their own understanding and connection to the spectrum of gender. Various immersive elements serve as a storyboard, leaving space to give meaning to the in-between.

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