Damien James

Cunt (2017)
Sharpie on watercolor paper
30 x 22 in.

Primarily made with Sharpies, Notes to Self is a body of text-based abstract art. This work was a way for me to take apart the meaning of language and examine words and phrases that have impacted me in primarily negative ways, and ultimately, to let their power dissolve. The fallibility of language is the seed from which this series grew over the course of two years following an incredibly difficult separation; how meaning shifts and softens over time, how experience and evolving perspective shape what we hear and how we internalize information, and how we act on that information.

Within the pieces submitted for your review, the choice to draw the word “cunt” was an attempt to examine a heavy dose of internalized anger and resentment associated with the past. It was never a word I used as an insult, but at times it was a word that certainly embodied my feelings, and those were not enjoyable feelings to have. So I spent time chewing on those feelings, the circumstances surrounding them, and the word itself, via the drawing. cunt (and the entire body of work) is self-reflective and in hindsight even celebratory: art making as a therapeutic process and time invested in the making of an object of art as essential for my own well-being. Thought over time poured out on paper.

The work is also concerned with both the power of beauty to obscure truth and the power with which people imbue language. The word “cunt” is offensive to many, especially here in the states, yet it’s used elsewhere nonchalantly. Why do we allow it to be so powerful, and why do we fear language, inert symbols that only we give meaning to? In an intelligent society, people should feel free to avail themselves of the entire language, not ignorantly, but with understanding and appreciation for context, for history. By allowing language to be institutionally altered for political correctness, we give up our freedom to evaluate and debate.

Each intertwining curve of the design is built from the four letters, c, u, n, and t; in a floral script, the letters were initially nested inside each other, then reflected, rotated, and multiplied, obscuring the ugliness of the word itself while also creating something beautiful, harmonious, and balanced. This sense of harmony also reflects an important arrival point for me through the completion of the work, opening my eyes to necessary and significant change in both my thinking and my daily life.

© Damien James