David Altmejd talks about the work Sarah Altmejd
After Columbia, I had no studio and could only work on the floor of the bedroom of my apartment. I wanted to make something very powerful. Instead of sculpting my sister’s face I made a black hole. I really love my sister, but I did not wish to reproduce my feelings. I have always tried to avoid representation. I wanted to make something new in the world by going a different route; to make something not meant to be representational. To make something new is positive; even when working with horror. I found myself focusing on tiny glittery structures that were growing on the edge of the hole. So all that time I was facing a dark void, which is my sister or myself.
Plaster, acrylic paint, polystyrene, synthetic hair, wire, chain, jewellery, glitter
Collection Victor Altmejd, Montréal
My first idea when I made Sarah Altmejd was … what I really wanted to do was to make a self-portrait. But I just thought that the genre of the self-portrait was, for me, was a little bit, almost clichéd. And I just wanted to find a way of really approaching that genre in a new way, in a weird way, in an unpredictable way. So I just decided to make a self-portrait in the shape of my sister, use her head, because we’re so close, I love her more than anything, we’re so close that I was able to see … to be able to make a portrait of her as a self-portrait, but with an infinite black hole instead of the face.
It’s absolutely obvious, I’m completely aware of that, that it’s an image that can look sort of gruesome because it is a hole in someone’s face. And that’s the one thing that I find interesting as well, because loving my sister like I do, the idea of representing her as the same way I feel for her, which is a beautiful person with beautiful hair, a nice smile and everything, would make me go towards a very boring direction of representation. And then I would end up with an object that is there just to communicate feelings that already exist in the world. But if instead of going in that direction, I go in the total opposite direction, I end up with an object that’s completely new, that’s completely new in the world. And even though it might look gruesome, it’s an object that I find infinitely positive because it’s a reminder for me that as an artist, the important thing is to make something new in the world. I believe that the artist has that power.
I thought that it was the perfect piece to be the first piece in the exhibition because, first of all, for a very simple reason, because I wanted to start the exhibition with a very powerful, concentrated piece, like a bang. [laughter] Like a piece that can potentially hit you in the gut, you know. And I wanted to start that way. But also, I just believe that that object can symbolically be understood or be read as a void. You know, that black hole in the face can actually be seen as the void. It’s a little bit like an infinite void … I see it as representing nothingness, in a way. As if it was the universe just before the Big Bang, you know. And then you can imagine, right after that, the Big Bang happens and you enter the show, and the show starts right after the Big Bang.