Biological presumptions – Outward perceptions – Down syndrome

The idea of hidden aspects of our make up being so completely in control of who we are and how we are perceived is an interesting area to me, taking this psychological question and transferring it to an art form is one area that I continue to work on.

In this particular project I chose to look very specifically at a singular chromosomal defect which often is seen to give complete social definition to a person. Down Syndrome occurs when the 21st chromosome splits unevenly into 3 separate pieces, this split involves re attributing proteins and creates many of the disabilities that sufferers are afflicted with as well as the very visual aspects of the disorder. The visual similarities of Down syndrome often mask the unique characteristics of each individual and that was the idea I wanted to address in some way, the idea that biologically, our make up is very similar irrelevant of having Down syndrome or not and as well as being the same within those irrelevant similarities we are all very complex and unique. I drew studies of people who are living with Down syndrome and settled on an image of a young girls face, I reduced it to a very simple line drawing for two reasons, one was to remove as much of the defining details of the condition whilst leaving some prominent features such as the oval eyes, small face, large tongue for those who thought to see them. The second reason was to create a statement of perception, society has a fascination with taxonomy and will use any similarity to catagorise and group individuals.
The obvious physical attributes of Down syndrome have led to people believing they are all the same so the Image was created with a stencil as a reference to this. In any subsequent stencil taken from this it is only her eyes that would pay tribute to the individuality because the eyes were hand painted multi-layered cellular images. Only truly visible when you looked closely in the light. When you went past your automatic assumptions and chose to look in a more aware way. The work was created on a large scale to add an impact to the statement, roughly 3’6″ square she hung above so as to loom on the viewer, a strange reversed perspective which placed the viewer in a more vunerable position, reducing the psychological tendency to judge.

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