We are all voyeurs at some point. At least I know I am. I have always been inclined to observe the intimacy of others, if what we call intimacy can be susceptible to being eyed. I believe intimacy is something that – when it exists and occurs – must be apprehensible, and so, I am on the trail.
Casilda and I met a couple years ago in my art studio at a Bushwick Open Studios weekend. We became fast friends, since she is not only a super interesting and nice person but she’s also an amazing artist. Her work has to do with skin and the body, and the ways our bodies/skin are public yet intimate. We share a fascination with skin and all its depth and diversity. I asked Casilda more about her work and skin:
Ariana Page Rusell (APR): How has skin been an inspiration for you in your work?
Casilda Sanchez (CS): Actually, the first works where I started exploring the core issues and subject matters that run now throughout my practice, involved skin both as a literal threshold between the inside and the outside in the body, and as a metaphor for a threshold between public and private spaces.
At the time, I got completely fascinated with skin. I started working on a project where I took transparent molds of my skin, hanged them on a wall and projected close-up stills of my skin on top of them. It was a way of exposing and opening up those boundaries, and at the same time wrapping the physical space with the body. During that time I produced numerous works with skin. I did installations, photographs, stickers, objects… It just has so much to it!
The skin is a surface, thin and concrete, but also a space for depth (remember Valéry’s “there is nothing deeper than skin”). It is something that while fulfilling its function of separating body and world, it’s also putting them in contact, allowing us to touch. It’s the biggest sense of all, literally. All of our body is covered by it, which means that we are sensitive and susceptible to feeling through touch in every inch of our body. We are, therefore, not separated from the world, but brought even closer by our skin.
The skin covers what lies beneath, but instead of hiding it, it works as a sieve, letting the inside emerge through its subtleties and movements. It doesn’t lie; it reflects life, emotions and circumstances. It is the most visible element of us all, it’s right there, before your eyes to be observed and read.
Skin can also be beautiful or unsettling, depending on the eyes of the beholder and the closeness when looking. Some people find it enlightening to learn and look at things up close, whereas others can’t bear it, which is something that interests me greatly, and skin is a perfect place to explore it. Many of my works (like As Inside As the Eye Can See or I wish I was as tall as the moon) portray close-ups of body parts, pushing the estrangement created by the decontextualization and the highlighted textures.
All this said, you can image that the more I started working about skin, the more I was getting personally involved, and at the same time fascinated by all its meaningful connections and endless potential for thought and aesthetic explorations.
Skin is no longer my main and only subject matter, but it is nevertheless still very present, coming up pretty often, and being very frequently visible in my work.
(APR): Yes, I see how it is always present in your work. And how could you not get personally involved and fascinated by skin! It is so rich and interesting, always inspiring with each new experience. I like how you placed the translucent material in front of projections of skin in the image above. The material reminds me of my temporary tattoos. So cool!
Do you have any skin conditions or skin issues?
(CS): I don’t have any issues per se, but I do have a sensitive skin, as well as many moles and spots, especially when sunbathing!
(APR): Me too! I have so many freckles and moles. What bothers you about your skin (if anything)?
(CS): Well, on the one hand the moles and spots do bother me sometimes, I won’t deny that, but on the other hand they create a more interesting and complex skin landscape when it comes to photograph it or make videos of it. So I did found its bright side.
(APR): I love your photographs of skin and moles–they form a lovely landscape. And the freckles give more texture to skin, I think. They give us cool patterns to play with! What do you love about your skin?
(CS): I have very sensitive skin when it comes to touch, and sometimes it feels like touch gets highlighted even if the skin is barely touching. This is a sensation that inspired me to create the video “The Touch of Proximity”, where two chins are approaching each other by slowly extending their necks as much as they can, as if an invisible force was driving them, to a point where they almost touch. Then, they recede and loop in an endless cycle of attraction. In this work, touch never gets to culminate in a point of physical contact, but there is a constant tension between the bodies as well as micro movements behind the skin landscape that suggest a touchless touch situation.
(APR): That reminds me of my 8th grade science teacher who insisted that we are never actually touching anything because there are so many molecules in the air. It’s enough for us to get close to something to feel like we’re actually touching it, since we move the molecules around it. I always like thinking of touch that way.
Please tell me a little bit about what inspires you to make art.
(CS): I get inspired by other artworks that I love, moments and situations when I see a glimpse of something magic and special, words that drag me in and disconnect me from where I am, and many times details of things that suddenly absorb me.
For me, art is a way of communicating things that can’t be expressed through language. And so, I’d say that anything that activates that part of the brain where things are too tight, connected or internal to be verbally described, inspires me and reminds me of the relevance of art.
(APR): I love that! That’s the way I view art as well–it has to move me in some way, surprise me, make me feel instead of or in addition to think–this is what reminds me of all the beauty in the world, and brings me into the moment.
(CS): Thanks Ariana for creating such a wonderful platform to connect people and inspire others around such an inspiring topic: skin!
(APR): Casilda, thank you for sharing your insights about art and skin, and for making beautiful work that moves me!
All images courtesy of Casilda Sanchez