Art, Art History and Design, School of


Date of this Version


Document Type



Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska

In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts

Major: Art

Under the Supervision of Professor Aaron Holz


Displacement is the act by which fluid is forced to move by an object floating or submerged in it. During the course of a bath, the bather continuously affects the water he/she displaces, creating water distortions that visually contort and fragment the bather. Our human senses cannot fully digest all these nuances made from one simple splash. We are essentially blind to these beautiful milliseconds save through the use of a camera. In studying my photographic references, I have been able to discern different types of water formations. The complexity of rendering water is its own struggle. More than a few paintings have failed ; the water distortion, no matter how exact it is photographically, is still a huge challenge to translate believably into paint. I predominately use two mediums: oil paint and pastel. The ephemeral nature of a splash translates well in pastel, with its thin layers of dusty pigment sitting precariously on the paper's surface. The properties of oil paint are also incredibly well suited for the subject matter. Its viscous properties are ideal for rendering flesh, and the use of wet media to portray wetness has its own metaphoric appeal. Displacement's general meaning is the movement of something from its usual or correct place. My work involves placing private intimate scenes in a public setting. I give the viewer permission to publicly take a voyeuristic look into my private life. While the private act of bathing is displaced to a public setting, the visual language that describes this act can be displaced to describe alternative concepts beyond water and flesh . The markings I make that signal water often take on other I~ associations. Water distortions can become more than water over a surface; they can merge with the bather's flesh to create deformities. Distorted thumbs can become phallic. Water streaks along the body can become scars and markings. In works that rely on grids and multiples, images from separate scenes are placed together, leading to different readings as a whole than each individual piece would warrant alone. In psychoanalysis, displacement is the transfer of emotion from the original focus to another less threatening object or person. My work is influenced by my unique experience concerning gender and marriage roles. Recently, some emotionally charged family events called into question stereotypes and cliches commonly associated with these roles. In a marriage, can a spouse take ownership of the other's sexuality? Do the stereotypical ideas of masculinity/active force and femininity/passive entity apply to marriage today as they did in my parents' generation? I acknowledge there are no definite answers to these questions, neither generically nor personally. As this definition of displacement implies, my artwork can serve as the less threatening object onto which I can transfer my emotions. Within my work, I can control my image and that of my husband. I can put my husband in submissive poses, using his image to question the dominating-male stereotype. I can put myself in submissive and objectifying poses, observing my own propensity for submission. I can publicly display my body's image and be vulnerable to public criticism or praise, while in a small way taking ownership of my sexuality. I can also obscure sexuality through the use of cropping images, letting flesh and body parts become more androgynous. Each definition of displacement manifests itself through the process, working method, subject and psychology of my work. I focus on one experience: the intimate, every-day experience of bathing. While my paintings and drawings are about the act itself, I also use the bather/water relationship to reference conditions of my personal life transcending the bathing process. After three years, I am still very much engaged, challenged and intrigued by water and flesh. I would have never guessed coming into this program, that I would find such rich and diverse subject matter within the small confines of my humble bathroom.