artproF Spotlight: Kelsey Higley, The Internal Monologue of a Restless Mind
artproF Spotlight aims to showcase the artwork of women at all levels of higher ed. Our first is Kelsey Higley, who created this photo project as an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma.
The art I strive to create engages the viewer in a conversation about issues many women and girls can relate to, and focuses on topics that also hold personal significance in my life. The Internal Monologue of a Restless Mind is a series of photographs that dive into the inner workings of a self-critical and anxious mind—my mind. This work is a sequence twelve silver gelatin prints, (prints done the old-fashioned way, in the darkroom) modified with handwritten excerpts from my personal journal. The text exposes the raw emotion I’ve experienced that shaped my early adult life, ranging from doubting my artistic abilities to coping with the sudden death of a family member. Its counterpart presents a straightforward self-portrait in an ordinary setting, illustrating how these thoughts run through my mind at various points in my day-to-day life.
This is one of my favorite photo projects I created while working on my B.F.A at the University of Oklahoma. Two years after completing this series, I was doing some research for my senior capstone and I came across the term “imposter syndrome”: the mentality that one is not qualified or is undeserving, even when the opposite is true. This term perfectly frames what I, and many others, have battled, and it’s a theme that is prevalent throughout my Internal Monologue series. All but three of the journal entries were written during my first two years of college. Those years were full of new and exciting experiences, but were also emotionally draining. That jump from high school to college is a huge one, and I jumped in with both feet.
Working on this project during my sophomore year turned out to be quite therapeutic. Since it was all done through traditional processes, each print took about an hour to make. I wrote each journal entry on a rectangular piece of glass, using a light-colored marker for the bulk of the text and a darker color to highlight important words. I then exposed the negative from my roll of film through the glass and onto a piece of light-sensitive photo paper. The light passed through the negative and the glass, but was obstructed by my markings, leaving those areas lighter or completely white. I saw the words as faint scars across my image—permanently marking me. It provided me with a confirmation that my emotions and experiences were very real and have absolutely shaped the person I have become.