GALLERY

Artist Statement

ASHLEY CZAJKOWSKI

Photo credit Josh Loeser

The human relationship with nature is a tenuous one. We are at once a part of the natural world, yet intentionally set apart from it. We build walls to keep nature out, and when we decide we want to enjoy it, we bring nature in little by little, in pots, and cages still to maintain that distance. I am interested in this disconnect; our refusal as a species to admit that we, too, are animals.

 There is a sense of savagery that comes with being an animal, being wild. When we are children we are wild. But as we grow, we are socialized; taught to be “proper” members of adult society. “Don’t put that in your mouth.” “Don’t climb that tree.” “Don’t touch that dead bird.” We learn to experience the world in a very specific way, predetermined before we are even born. We are taught to become something other, to become civilized. I am interested in the possibility of reversal; a reclamation of our nature, a re-wilding of the human, an attempt at un-becoming.

This is a particular challenge for girls and women. Though all experience this  (false) dichotomy between humans and nature, accepted social construction of gender removes femininity much further from the nature of the human animal than do the expectations put on masculinity.  Women must constantly be aware of their physical state, masking and removing aspects of their body that appear too unkempt. But it also involves a governing of mental conditions. Wild, untamed, and generally undesirable behavior in women was once diagnosed as medical conditions like hysteria and lunacy, illustrating the psychoanalytical fear of the “female monster.” Chastising unbecoming female behavior permeates history and continues to linger in societal thought.

It is this form of domestication and because femininity is the gender I learned to perform first-hand, that the relationship of women and nature is highlighted in my work. Drawing these connections touches on broader themes of fertility, sensuality and mortality.