Consequence of Experience – Artist Statement

Karen Cornelius
Consequence of Experience

A series of rubbings interwoven with text from childhood letters.

In Consequence of Experience I worked with children’s party dresses like those that my grandmother in Philadelphia sent me. I wore these dresses as a child with white bobby socks and shiny black patent leather shoes in the humid jungle of the Congo marking my already noticeable difference as a white child in a black society more pronounced. I use text from the letters written by my girl self at this time period to my grandparents as both subject and background, concurrently uniting the various perceptions of the adult and the child layering the past and present reality of my experiences as a child in the Congo growing up during politically volatile times. During this time I experienced fleeing for our lives, losing all our worldly possessions and knowing many whose lives were prematurely snuffed out

Rubbing a graphite stick over rag paper set on top of the surface of a child’s dress stiffened and dried with acrylic gel transfers an impression on to the paper as a form of printmaking. Rubbing gently transfers vague translucent image. Pressing hard gives a bold impression. The rubbed impression is like belonging, sometime it feels bold and unmistakable and others times vague and doubtful. The impression taken from the real object can feel like two identities, one that is shown to the world and the other hidden behind. Written words on the rag paper conform to the image of the dress below but leave out bits for the viewer to reconstruct. Fabric dresses transferred as a rubbing can be like memory as it can fragment, fade, rip and unravel leaving gaping holes and absences in the exploration of identity, trauma and survivor’s guilt.