Mictecacihuatl

11/9/12 – Black and White Skull II

I decided to experiment with the makeup for the practical components of the research. First of all I applied foundation and setting powder over the top of my face until my skin was completely white. In one of my previous attempts, I did not allow for the foundation to set before applying the eye liner or the eye shadow which had caused the makeup to smudge all over my cheeks. This time I waited for at least 5 to 10 minutes for the foundation to set before making any drastic changes.

I used a black eye liner to create the designs around the eyes, nose and mouth. I had to press very lightly in order to prevent the makeup from smudging. I have tried using liquid eye shadow although it is very difficult to remove especially if you make a mistake. I decided to stick with normal eye shadow that created some interesting textures around the eye sockets.

While the eye shadow was easy to work with, the makeup began to smudge into the base colour. The loose particles from the eye shadow had fallen onto the foundations of the makeup that was almost impossible to remove. Instead of redoing the makeup completely I tried to incorporate the smudge marks into the design which actually worked quite well.

I’m not a professional makeup artist although I have been practising different styles each week. I’ve always wanted to learn a different skill and the project has definitely provided me with the opportunity to test different techniques. I did make a couple of mistakes although I have tried to include them into the design.

I have also realised that the window opposite the dark recliner chair in the lounge room has the best light. I decided to place my jacket on the front of the recliner chair that had created a great background for my self portraits.

Aztec Mythology: Mictecacihuatl

The other day I discovered the Day of the Dead leggings from Black Milk clothing that has inspired me to research Aztec Mythology. I have been fascinated with Mictlantecuhtli, “the goddess in the underworld” that is explained in Faye Dowling’s “The Book of Skulls”.

Dowling quotes “The festival has it’s roots in the ancient myth of the goddess Mictecacihuatl, The Lady of the Dead, who ruled over the underworld of Mictlan. Wearing the mask of a skull, she escorted the newly departed back to their departed families and kept watch over the bones of the dead” (Dowling, 2011)

I have wondered whether the face painting that is associated with the Dead of the Dead celebration is connected to Aztec mythology such as Mictecacihuatl. I have seen quite a lot of women wearing the skull makeup that may suggest that death is interpreted as a female figure within the Mexican culture. My series of self portraits have become an appropriation of the Mexican skulls within the Day of the Dead and Micteacihuatl.

Camera Lucida: Roland Barthes

At the moment I have also been reading through Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes who explains that the photograph makes a transition from ‘subject’ to ‘object’. Barthes quotes “Photography transformed subject into object, and even, one might say into a Museum object: In order to take the first portraits” (Barthes, 1993 )

I have only read the first few pages at the moment but Barthes’s observations have also invited me to consider the nature of photography. Barthes also believes that photography can manipulate one’s own identity or individuality. From the author’s perspective, “The photograph is the advent of myself as other: a cunning dissociation of consciousness from identity” (Barthes, 1993)

Barthes also explains that when a person is exposed to the camera, the self is transformed into an image or representation. I decided to take another look at my photographs and it is quite strange to realise that the camera has captured my own presence or physical existence. I had then realised that my own body had become a motionless object that Barthes also explains within his analysis on photography. Barthes believes that the image of a particular person becomes completely ‘motionless.

Barthes also reflects upon his experiences in front of the camera or the photographic lens. Barthes quotes “I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feel he is becoming an object. I then experience a micro – version of death” (Barthes, 1993)

I do find this quote particularly fascinating and I began to wonder whether my own photographs feature a connection with death. The whole purpose of the self portraits is to find a connection with death that has been rather challenging for me. Through all of my own observations, death is present within the visual culture that has been rather difficult to switch off to. Now I see death as an image or representation that is used for mass production and consumerism.

Has the visual culture changed my attitudes towards death? I am still searching for the answers to these questions, although I do remember being exposed to the image of the skull when I was the age of six. Since then I have been exposed to death related imagery in television, film, music, fashion and contemporary art. My own experiences have invited me to question how the Generation Y responds to death and mortality. So far Camera Lucida is extremely interesting and I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in photography.

Dowling, Faye. The Book of Skulls. Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2011 p.36

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida Translated by Richard Howard.  London: Vinage Books, 1993 p.p. 3- 15


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