Heart Over Head, a Photographic Body of Work

This body of work was created as my Independent Project in my Photographing Light course at Truman...but quickly became much more than just an assignment. Like I usually do with my fine arts courses, I used this as an opportunity to explore my soul and gain a better understanding of myself and the universe - and ultimately created an extension of my printmaking body of work, Live Fearlessly. I found myself being compelled daily to make images and fell in love with this new outlet for visual self-expression. This body of work and the moments captured in its images are invaluable to me.

It's an odd thing when you go from "having" to make work to needing to make work, and I think this was the first time I experienced that shift - I was even compelled to create another body of work completely on my own, inspired by this body of work, that I call an "experience piece." 


Artist Statement 

The wounds carved into my psyche by anxiety had become so deep that I identified with them; I did not know myself without them. After 21 long years of fear spurred from the ridicule of my own ruthless mind, I discovered a way to help protect myself from its wrath, a way to strengthen my heart for the battle with my head: self compassion, a practice that I am slowly coming to understand. 

I learn through experiencing myself, steadily becoming attuned to my being’s natural rhythm and coming back to center, back to earth. The practice demands emotional, mental, and physical strength – but provides understanding and control in return. 

This series of images was a practice of understanding in itself, recording the stillness in the energy created throughout my observance and acceptance of my mind and self. 


Convey to other people (particularly those who may share this struggle) the ways in which I attain peace and inspire them to work towards their own self understanding and compassion.

Poem Meaning

The poem uses descriptive language and imagery in the first two stanzas describing the author hugging themselves in an act of self compassion, love and understanding. It goes on to state that no one knows them better than themselves, and implies that they have the ability to right their own world. The last stanza represents the separation between the self and the soul, the emotions from the awareness, and the desire to conquer the distinction. It also gives the method in which to do this: through stillness.


As our soul resides in these bodies, our consciousness is consistently threatened by our autonomic system’s response to fear. When a body perceives a threat, its mind is overtaken by only one idea: survival. Since we as humans have long evolved into intellectual beings with most of their physical needs comfortably tended to, we aren’t always able to identify when this response is being triggered within ourselves. Consequently, we don’t give it the attention it needs, causing tension to build within ourselves and disrupting our relationship with our true self and potential. Our limbic system, the primitive part of our brain that controls the “fight or flight” reaction, takes control and drags the mind through relentless thought, keeping us from purely experiencing the now. 

Every body carries with it some kind of fear, and mine has always been a brutal fear of judgment. I’ve never been one to think of myself as significant; I was always just there, trying my hardest to remain as unobtrusive as possible so that no one would ever even get the opportunity to judge me. When I would briefly emerge from my fears, I sought validation at every turn, something no one could ever adequately satisfy me with, leaving me running back to hide. Now, I have realized that you have to learn to love yourself before you can accept others’ love; true love can only come from within. 

To accomplish this, I am learning to become my own best friend through self compassion, a practice that allows you to separate your emotions from yourself and not be overcome by them. By showing kindness to yourself throughout your struggles, you become able to retain your consciousness and the awareness of your true self while experiencing your suffering. You also learn how to take care of your body by listening and then responding to its needs. 

Through starting this process for myself, I now recognize the depth of the wounds my anxiety carved into my psyche and so have begun various practices to strengthen and protect my body, mind and soul. As a supplement to my frequent energy medicine, meditation, ayurveda, and breathing routines intended to release energy tension within the body that has built up from day-to-day limbic threats, I practice inversion yoga to peak my consciousness and improve circulation, concentration, memory and processing abilities by reversing blood flow. The increased energy in the brain also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces balanced and calm feelings. Mentally, the practice requires concentration, forcing me to live in the moment and experience the now while enjoying myself with a whimsical yet challenging activity. 

Inversions require a lot of practice (particularly in my case, since I have never been athletically inclined), which serves as a humble reminder that the greatest things in life come slowly with enormous patience, perseverance, and practice. Metaphorically, inversions represent the mastery of balancing the heart over the head and finding your true self outside of the ruthless mind. They also represent the importance of knowing how to look at life and obstacles with a new and unexpected perspective, even though it may take more effort and time. The practice demands emotional, mental, and physical strength but provides understanding and control in return. 

How the Work is Meant to be Viewed

In the End

This body of work gave me an opportunity to bring my attention back to why I was doing what I was doing, as making images became a sort of meditation for me. The passion I have for self compassion and my daily interaction with my concept kept me inspired and motivated to create a solid and dynamic body of work. Through lots of experimentation, I found a harmony in the images I really love, including photos from around my disgusting house, inside my cozy haven of a bedroom, out on a beautiful farm on a still morning, and inside the studio in a building where I’ve spent the better part of my last four years. The variety is reflective of all the different practices I blend and the accessibility of a lot of them; they are all relatively easy - hell, I do them. These places are very personal and significant to me, and the environment is an important aspect to each individual photo and the energy practice being captured there. 

I had a lot of fun playing with long exposure photographs as well, and like that they add a fun, unexpected, and unique aspect to the body of work. What I really love about these, however, is the fact that they really do capture the movement and energy created through my meditations. I can see the movements in the blurs, and I am reminded of how I feel as I do those movements, and so the image is comforting to me. 

It was also interesting and challenging to try to work text, something I was having a lot of fun with in my Creative Writing class, into my work. I exhausted many options, never falling in love with anything. In the end, I decided on displaying a short poem that sets the mood for the body of work, tucked in at the bottom of the images. 

Student Research Conference Poster

I was assigned the Student Research Conference poster again in the Publications Office, so I had to come up with a completely new concept for the same event two years later. This was a bit intimidating, as at first I was remembering how long it took me to come up with something good the first time around wondering how the hell I would ever come up with a second idea. It turned out that I came up with a concept pretty quickly after doing a little inspirational search and research, which either means that I've become more nimble in the creative process, or that thinking through things for a second time around with a completely fresh perspective really can result in great things, sometimes even greater than before. Sometimes you have to polish that turd before you can move on to the "real one."

The poster designs of the past four years, including my own design, revolved around the interdisciplinary aspects of the Student Research Conference and all the majors coming together for one event. Each one used icons to represent different aspects of research and different areas of education. As a result, the designs were very intricate with many layers and effects. They were also all 11x17 inches, a standard on campus.

This year, I wanted to take the poster in a new direction. In 2013, I was really captivated by the aesthetic of the brain and capitalized on it when designing around my theme of bringing multiple disciplines together that was inspired both visually and thematically by Leonardo DaVinci's sketchbooks. When I began reflecting on what did and didn't work well with that poster, I was intrigued by the role the brain plays in research as well as its capacity and potential. I stumbled across information about neurons, and learned that they make up your nervous system by transmitting information to one another via synapses. I thought this was the perfect representation of what research entails, especially at Truman: making connections through multiple modes of study to form new ideas. The single neuron represents in its solidarity the beginning of an idea and those new connections, which always begins with research. I wanted the neuron to look alive and energetic, so I illustrated the complete neuron with ink on paper in three separate layers (on separate papers on a light table) with three separate line weights. I then scanned them, brought them into Photoshop, and compiled them using three different colors to bring it to life, drawing energy color inspiration from this image. The background is composed of light grey circles pulsating from the nucleus to reemphasize the energy of the neuron. There is little information that has to be displayed on the poster, so I took advantage of the opportunity by using a thin sans-serif to keep the design minimal, simplistic and modern. I also lengthened the proportion by cutting the size to 7x17 inches in order to comfortably fit the long neuron, keep a modern tone, and make it more unique on the bulletin boards around campus.