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'Lady Lazarus' Art Exhibition

24 April 2013

International Student – Lenka Borisova
Catholic University in Ruzomberok, Slovakia

ART does not exist to be hidden. Pictures are created to be shown to other people, to make them stop, relax, think; to make connections with things that they already know. Through art people can demonstrate their creativity. I know that Sylvia Plath was a creative person and people have distorted perceptions of her work. We cannot know precisely what Sylvia Plath wanted to express in her poems, we can only guess, analyse, interpret and react. This was the process that I followed.

Firstly her poem ‘LADY LAZARUS’ was inspiring for me. The beauty of the language, musicality of the words, shocking lines with many illusions and references to other texts and contexts. I could only guess what the lines really meant. But when you are impressed by something you start to analyse it and use the analysis of other people.

Before coming to St Mary’s on Erasmus, I had a conversation about “Lady Lazarus” with my teacher David Levente Palatinus, and simultaneously began conducting research that helped me move forward. I made some sketches that worked as interpretations of my ideas. I wanted to create an image of a woman who was strong and fragile at the same time. A woman in agony who wants to hide herself but on the other hand a woman who is coming back from her death, who is alive again, who is exposed to other people who are looking at her as if she would only be an actress on some stage. People are looking at her and she is for them nothing but entertainment. So her audience is interested because they love things that are shocking. But she is not only somebody who died, she has many other characteristics, but people cannot grasp this. They make their own interpretations of her, but they are forgetting so many things that make up her identity. People who are looking at her and perceive her only in one way make her to be as they wish, she has a featureless face – because she wants to fight with this misinterpretation of her, she wants to show herself again but it is not possible because people cannot see beyond the established image.

The allusions to power and weakness are typical attributes of this poem. A touch of irony is visible too. Lady Lazarus plays the role of a survivor, the woman who understands the nature of her enemy and returns to fight back.

A paperweight,

Do I terrify?-------

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth

Gentlemen, ladies, These are my hands My knees.

Is an art, like everything else

I am your opus, I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby That melts to a shriek.

I may be skin and bone, ...

These are lines that inspired me.

In my pictures I wanted to create not only the feeling of sadness, agony and torture; I wanted to capture the moment when “Lady Lazarus” is receiving her power again and again and when she is in a moment prepared to face the world around her, but when she is still somewhere between dying and resurrection, when she is stopped at the time.

In the other pictures I wanted to create the connection with the shadow that is still with her, the shadow of the past that is not possible to delete, or remove.

My drawings show her sadness, how she wanted to fight to shout but there was still something stuck in her throat.

I worked with the position of her head, with the tension of her hands and with the image of defensive, protective positions of people who need to hide themselves from the outer world.

This exhibition would not have happened without the involvement of certain people. David Levente Palatinus showed me the beauty of Sylvia Plath’s poems. Mary Flanagan supported and motivated me. She gave me feedback and helped develop my concept and my drawing skill. Thanks to my fine art study in St Mary’s, I learnt how to be more focused in the development of my work.

‘The Life Drawing’ evening classes that I attended helped me to understand the human body better, to see the movement of the muscles and bones and the work of tone, but the approaches that the teachers in St Mary’s use helped me to become more confident and to experiment with my work. I wish to express my thanks to Mary Flanagan, Deirdre Robson and Paddy Mohan.

My Erasmus roommates also helped me very much, they were the models for my work and one of them Marta Spyra, understood exactly what I was trying to express. She read the books by Sylvia Plath and after our discussions I was more and more convinced that I had to do something more with Sylvia´s poems and my art work – the idea for an exhibition evolved.

Thanks to the staff in St Mary’s University College Art Department who helped me organise the exhibition space, refreshments and lighting. My Erasmus classmates Božena Witek and Jakub Wisniewski who provided live music for the event, and Marta Spyra and Ania Baranek who delivered a most wonderful speech. The exhibition was made complete by the attendance of so many guests. I am really thankful to everybody who came and helped complete my piece of art.

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