Jacintha MurphyBarista atAnneliesBerlin, Germany
Growing up, I was always creative, constantly drawing and making, so it was inevitable that I would go to art school. There was never any question about what I would study. Even though I struggled for many years with identifying as one, I am an artist. I think a lot of people in my day-to-day life are unaware of this, though, since I’m not a ‘working artist.’ The concept of pursuing art as a career has always made me feel uneasy. I hate the pressure to make money from it, which is most people’s supposed definition of success. But by not making it the focus of my working life, I’ve been able to maintain a healthy relationship with creating.
My studio practice deals with the material nature of the body. It centers on the transgressive and the body’s transformative capabilities, most specifically the processes of birth, death and renewal. In my work, I hope to demonstrate the intrinsic relationship between destruction and creation, death and birth, and in so doing explore the possibility of states that exist between these processes—states of becoming. Using a combination of bodily-like, visceral and decay-able materials like wax, paint, pomegranate seeds and jun mothers (the latter of which are cultures of yeast and bacteria used to ferment a kombucha-like green tea), I try to evoke the visceral and mortal nature of the body in an abstract way while simultaneously referencing the earth-bound nature of the body through the use of a monochromatic palette of umber tones. Using my own body as source material, I explore the grotesque, fleshy ‘otherness’ of the female body and its essential nature of being a vessel of potential.
Even though I struggled for many years with identifying as one, I am an artist.
Last year, I began to incorporate my trichotillomania into my work.
Hair is itself a distinctly abject part of the human body. When in place—notably on the head—it’s an object of beauty and fetish, but when displaced on other parts of the body or when disembodied in the form of individual hairs, it’s transformed into an item of disgust. My own hair has played an important part in my life and so has become a locus of my anxiety. I often idly pluck individual, rough or ‘imperfect’ hairs from my head and run them through my fingers to experience their textures in a form of trichotillomania (a condition characterized by an overwhelming urge to repeatedly pull out one’s own hair). Last year, I began to incorporate my trichotillomania into my work, collecting these disembodied hairs and exploring the origins of my condition in childhood through my work. In doing so, I finally acknowledged these issues and subsequently (just about!) overcame them.
With my ‘Hair Drawing’ piece, I encourage the viewer to interact with the work, to run their fingers through the hair as I do in an effort to lead them to somewhat relate to the feelings of release and calm that this action impresses upon me or, conversely, to emote disgust in the participant. The other piece, ‘The Source,’ is about my perceived origin of this compulsion—a childhood characterized by being “the girl with the long hair,” an identity that was thrust upon me by my mother’s refusal to allow me to cut my hair until I was eight years old. ‘The Source’ is thus focused on the length of hair that my mother finally allowed me to be relieved of. This project was a very cathartic work. It was a true mirror unto the self, which I believe is one of the roles of art in society—to be a reflection of the human condition, and to confront us with truths that we sometimes remain blind to, even while we are living through them everyday.
The happiest moment of my life was when I touched Iggy Pop’s wrinkly bare chest as he sang ‘No Fun’ at the Isle of Wight Festival when I was 17. He was absolutely my teenage idol and I was so fucking excited to touch the flesh of my wrinkly god. My biggest triumph is probably making my life here in Berlin. I ended up here while traveling with my boyfriend at the time and just never left. We had no plan, next to no money, zero German language skills and absolutely no clue about the bureaucracy and details involved with actually settling here.
Somehow I managed to hustle for a few years, literally counting pennies and constantly moving from sublet to sublet, getting screwed over by jobs and landlords, going through some tough personal times and learning so much about myself in the process. I’m not going to say that I’ve ‘made it,’ but I’m finally comfortable. I’m working in an industry I’m passionate about, I have strong goals to work towards and wonderful people around me, and I know myself more intimately than I ever thought possible. This city can be bloody tough to get by in, but it’s so worth it and I’ve never felt so comfortable or so at home.
My biggest triumph is probably making my life here in Berlin.