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This image displays the back wall of a 3-walled studio space. On this wall hangs a black and white, high-contrast photograph. This photograph captures a naked figure on her side as she lays atop 500, 1” tall cylindrical, ceramic pieces. These white ceramic forms sit against a black background and form a shape similar to the shape of the model who lies in fetal position, facing left. The framed piece hangs amidst a wall covered in nearly 1,000 ceramic forms and bovine bones. Similar to the photograph, the ceramic pieces and bovine bones are spray painted white and hang against a black wall.


Elizabeth Blake Borgeson

Digital print on archival photo paper, ceramic, mirror, metal, wood, bovine bone, 2022

In Vanitas, a Latin word for ‘emptiness’ or ‘futility’, I portray the psychological and emotional confusion that ensued during my Covid-19 quarantine experience. Within a year, the pandemic upended our ideas of normalcy and day-to-day life, leading me to reevaluate my perceptions of control. As I leaned into my spiraling curiosities and grappled with the isolation of quarantine, I suddenly felt that I had somehow missed the ledge–or maybe even jumped over it–and fallen into an inescapable existential crisis. By personifying my unsettling thoughts through photography and installation, I depict how isolation redefined my understanding of what now feels like a blurred reality. Vanitas exhibits a series of visual metaphors that simulate the issues behind questioning personal autonomy and/or experiencing anomie: “when common values and common meanings are no longer understood or accepted [...] because there is no accepted definition of what is desirable.” Lastly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Stamps Undergraduate Research Committee for their generous support of my research and making process.