To tell our stories, we play.
Contemplative and confessional, my work delves into how we build self-perceptions through psychometry – the impressions of stories that come to us when we touch familiar objects, exist in familiar places, and feel familiar skin. I see stories as the basic unit of understanding between humans, and imagination as fundamental to storytelling. We relate our inner narratives through stories, but we can never tell a perfectly true story. Instead, we embellish, editorialize, and reenact. To tell our stories, we play.
As a child, I had the freedom to truly indulge this impulse, play pretend, and fabricate elaborate fantasy worlds with my two younger brothers. In a low-income Oklahoma family, I had an early sense of belonging that other queer people don’t always get. These early examples of unconditional love and acceptance as a result of unabashed storytelling became the seeds for a sense of self and artistic growth amidst the turmoil of my queer coming-of-age. Over the years, having family, friends, and lovers as likely to indulge in make-believe as I am has nurtured a storyteller’s imagination that feeds into my approach to life and art. Simply put, getting older doesn’t mean living in an increasingly concrete world.
Psychometry requires a body to experience the world. Stories propagate themselves through our bones and skin. As a queer person, gay and male, my body is a place inspected by the male gaze, and a place from which the male gaze is projected. My relationship with my body is further complicated by chronic illness. It becomes a battleground where self-perception and bodily limitations wage war against each other. And my ability to share myself freely and intimately is connected to an upbringing filled with fantasy and fairy tales.
Award-winning multidisciplinary artist, Austin Dawes is a Studio Art BFA senior at Oklahoma State University with MFA aspirations. His work has been shown in over a dozen exhibitions nationally, including juried venues such as Momentum, an annual juried show of artists under thirty across Oklahoma, Rites of Passage at Cincinnati’s Manifest Gallery, and OSU’s Annual Student Juried Exhibition where he received First Place in Studio Art 2D. Dawes has curated shows for OSU’s Artist Society, and his work can be found in the collections of Oklahoma State’s Noble Research Center and Student Union.