Statement

STATEMENT | G. ELLIOTT SIMPSON

While it’s fair to say that ‘desire’ figures into the images I make, it’s equally true to say that the desire I am retracing is a memory – of someone lost, or an unrequited something never attained. I am more haunted by the ‘characters’ in my photographs than I am ‘mused’ by the models I’ve used to portray them. But through these models, I’ve remade those characters from my past as mythic, desirable, iconic Greek figures, comic book superheroes, suffused with some representational ideas about power and pleasure. Depravity and violence are there too, because so much of my memory has been tainted by a bitterness I feel about how I’ve been wounded, or perhaps a sadness at the losses endured.

Beyond these issues, I’m intrigued in a broader sense by how people transform themselves, and how others experience that transformation. It seems to me such transformation involves as much a self-deception as it does any expression of faith. People think themselves capable of all sorts of acts that are not possible. There is only so much a person can experience in the immediacy of one’s existing body. It seems to me that any further awareness must come through distortions to, and at the expense of, the regular order of ourselves; to break out of yourself, you must be willing to break yourself. Maybe that’s just a complicated way of saying that to move forward we have to evolve into something more than we are, and we have to be willing to pay a price for that advancement.

I’ve been fascinated by the macabre ever since I was a young boy. In Grade Eight I pulled a practical joke on my French Immersion teacher at the small school I attended in rural Ontario. Miss M was an outsider and a hard person to read, officious in manner but with a sly grin at unexpected moments. Her classroom was on the 5th Floor and the windows were of an older style, opening outward and up, with faulty latches. One day, when she stepped out of the room during a short recess, I opened the window wide and ran down the back stairwell leading outside. Then I laid myself out motionless on the ground beneath the window, splayed like a starfish. I actually didn’t expect her shock or her scream, which was piercing. In retrospect, I was startled by her willingness to believe my ruse. To partially absolve my conscience I remember that I jumped up and yelled ‘Its OK. I’m OK. I landed right.’ And then I went back upstairs to accept my punishment and make the best of it.