WORKS – Heads by Edwige Massart & Xavier Wynn

In ALL, WORKS by Julia

Edwige Massart & Xavier Wynn are Chicago based artists working in a range of mediums including photography and sculpture. In this interview we learn more about their anatomy inspired Heads series.

What was the initial inspiration behind the Heads series of works?

We wanted to make something together, and art made sense.

We both love art in all its forms and functions and love to make it as well as appreciate it. Edwige was trained in Europe as a decorative painter and now works as an art facilitator for the developmentally disabled. Xavier has been a marketing creative all his career. We are fans of outsider and surrealist art, and that helped define the style and approach.

To make the pieces personal and meaningful, we looked to combine individual interests into something new and unique. Edwige is amazingly curious about the world around her, and Xavier has always been interested in the inner workings of things. So the idea of using found objects and memories to explore personality and identity came together naturally.

What sparked your interest in medical imagery and why did you choose to focus on the head instead of other parts of the body?

Since childhood, Xavier has been obsessed with medical imagery. That began when he saw the “sliced bodies” exhibition at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago at the age of nine. He was fascinated by the hidden pieces and parts that make us who we are — the inner workings and guts that drive our outer shells. So the sliced bodies are the literal inspiration for the form the Heads have taken.

We create “heads” because they work best visually and conceptually. A profile is a strong, simple and recognizable image and the head is the body part most associated with personality and identity.

Within the artwork, the inside directly affects the form of the outside. Inside the head—the brain, memories and thought—determines who you are, while outside the head—your profile, face and form—drives how you are perceived.

Can you describe the process of item selection for each work?

Edwige has been collecting things since she was a child. It started with collecting Roman mosaics in the desert of Israel with her family and hasn’t stopped. Beauty is everywhere when you look and the stories are endless. So we have a collection that spans bags to beads to bones to bugs.

There is no set way to choose the items. Sometimes we start with an idea and sometimes we start with a specific piece. And they grow organically.

Is there an underlying unified theme for the objects found in each work?

Personality and identity is the universal theme. Some heads have very specific meanings to us, and those have come both by intention and by accident. We prefer to keep those stories for ourselves mostly, and let the heads tell everyone whatever they want to say (they may lie to us, who knows).

The heads are created in a surrealist manner—as much unconsciously as consciously. We find that creating a head is a lot like the rest of life or like raising a child, even with the best intentions and direction, they are going to inevitably make their own choices for you.

Where are the found objects sourced from?

Life. Anywhere and everywhere we are. So a lot from the streets of Chicago, but pretty much anywhere from any point in Edwige’s life.

What role does memory play in the creation of the Heads series?

Conceptually, it drives an overall idea behind the head — the role our past experiences play in the development of who we are. And they provide people a multitude of ways to connect to the heads while letting the heads tell new stories each time.

Personally, it gives them a wealth of meaning and a connection across multiple levels. Individually, each item comes from a very specific point or place in our lives. And each piece has a story. When they come together, they make a whole new narrative that just gets richer with each encounter.

Artistically, they present us a new challenge each time. They offer endless variety and new direction with each new head. And we like how they look and what they mean.

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