The purpose of this project is to study the physical expression of human emotion through the figure. The project will be somewhat scientific in that it is rooted in observation, experimentation and documentation of my findings. The initial production phase of the project will consist largely of gestural drawings, traditional figure sketches and anatomical studies as well as extensive research on scientific data and theory regarding the emotions. The intermediary phases of the project will involve further study of the face and figure as a whole both in art history and in life. I will use photography as a tool to record these in life, visiting locations where intense emotions or a variety of emotions may be frequently seen in people (sporting events, airports, hospitals, etc.) In addition, I will be working with a clinical psychologist who specializes in reading emotional expressions. I also plan to work with a local theater in order to study the body’s projection of emotions from stage to audience. The final phase and successful completion of the project will be signaled by the realization of 6 canvases, each depicting one of the basic human emotions.
My initial research revealed that while much (relatively recent) work has been done in the scientific study of the facial muscles and their consequent movement during the expression of emotions, very little exploration has taken place concerning the rest of the body in this regard. The only significant research done in this area was undertaken by Charles Darwin early in his career. His 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals details his deductions on the matter, and sets emotional expression within an evolutionary context. I have chosen this work as a rough starting point in my own research. I also found it essential to begin this project with a specific classification of each of the emotions, in a way that is inclusive without being redundant. Dependent on which philosopher one subscribes to, there can be as many as 11 basic human emotions or as few as 2. Based on my initial research, and for the purposes of this project, I will consider there to be 6.