When someone gave me a hug, I felt trapped before it even happened: a two second interaction that felt like it lasted ten minutes. Where do I put my arms? Above? Below? One over and one under? While part of me focused on arm placement, the other part of me couldn’t stop thinking about the fingertips squeezing my back. Now I’m at another funeral and over a hundred people have hugged me and I feel awkward but I try to be normal and hug back.
I attempt to dissect my anxiety about human interaction by focusing on the form of a simple hug. Simple is the key word. There are two bodies, 4 arms, and 20 fingers. I use the body as form to create awkward limb-like figures. Each figure I make stems from a personal interaction I have had with family and friends revolving around grief and commiseration. Since 2013, my family has dealt with many losses, and each funeral is like an annual family reunion that no one wants to be at. Everyone in the small town of Matawan, NJ comes together and makes awkward jokes like, “we have to stop meeting like this.” They give me a hug that I don’t really want and they say “I’m so sorry for your loss” and I say, “thank you” quietly because I don’t know the tone I should say it in and my anxiety is through the roof. Hug after hug, I hope that I get used to being suffocated by these foreign figures but my nerves never settle. My pieces represent these unwanted life experiences. The bright colors used symbolize my efforts to smile through the pain, to hide the sadness. Aside from clay I use rope, brick, and cord to represent the working class in the armpit of New Jersey. The abstract figures in my work describe the story of my experiences and the people that I connect with at these “family reunions.”