Sins and Sorrows
Emily Elisa Halpern
“Sins and Sorrows” is a new body of work inspired by a family member’s suicide. It features assemblages, sculpture and photography and explores the darkness of self-harm and depression. People who hurt themselves often believe they deserve punishment. While not exclusive to Christianity, the concept of suffering, and contrition, in order to atone for one’s sins is a fundamental precept. With a loose nod towards Christianity’s concept of sin, I decided to express my own take on the “Deadly Sins.”
The sins of Pride, Greed, Wrath, Sloth, Envy, Gluttony and Vanity are presented in a variety of ways, regarding the materials used and my engagement with the piece. Some are performative and pertain to my personal experiences, while others relate explicitly to current events. The “Wrath” piece was created immediately following the massacre in Las Vegas. I shot the steel plate used in the assemblage with weapons similar to the ones used in the commission of mass shootings– an AR-15 and a pistol– under the guidance of an experienced handler of weapons. “Greed in the Garment Industry” expresses the ongoing issue of exploitation of workers in sweatshops and when I show this piece at openings, I wear a dress of silk charmeuse printed with headlines from sweatshop disasters, examining my own, and consumers’ culpability in the ongoing mistreatment of garment workers. “White Pride” is inspired by the KKK and Nazis marching in Charlottesville last August and a President who said, “There were good people on both sides”. While each sin is distinct, the grouping of sins is meant to be interpreted as one piece, expressing how the manufactured nature of sin is incorporated in the fabric of our lives.
There are other pieces in my work that highlight personal reactions and acts of contrition for our sins. These are our sorrows. Self-abuse can take many forms, via drugs, bulimia or razor blades. Inspired by their innate connection, I pair sin and sorrow in order to express the latent tragedy that real and perceived sin imposes upon us individually and collectively.