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2024
Visual Arts

A self-portrait of artist Iden Crockett, whose mixed-media exhibition, “4 a.m. Girl,” is on display at the YS Arts Council Gallery and explores dual selves. (Submitted photo)

Crockett explores ‘dual selves’ in ‘4 a.m. Girl’ exhibition

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Local artist and writer Iden Crockett is no stranger to opening herself up to the world. Author of the News column “My Name is Iden,” with a consistent online artistic presence over the last few years, Crockett has explored her identities, and joyfully shared her revelations about those explorations, in her mixed-media collages and drawings, poetry, essays, photography, videos and more.

She’s preparing to do so again with “4 a.m. Girl,” an exhibition that will open to the public this Friday, March 15, with a reception beginning at 6 p.m. in the YS Arts Council’s Robert F. Baldwin Gallery.

Speaking with the News in February, Crockett said the title of the show, “4 a.m. Girl,” is borrowed from a poem Crockett wrote, itself borrowed from a collage piece of the same name, which was, in turn, taken from the a piece in an old issue of Playboy — taken in the literal sense, torn from the magazine’s pages to be added to the collage.

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The title alludes to the long — and late — hours Crockett has often kept when making her art, creating at a fever pitch over the last few years since she first leaned into art. In that time, she’s produced roughly 200 collages, several hundred drawings, nearly 500 poems and more than 10,000 digital photographs.

“I’d guess I worked roughly 50 hours a week, nonstop, for 30 months,” she said.

At first, Crockett said, her ability to produce a high volume of work during the quiet of the small hours felt therapeutic — a way to check in with herself and scratch a persistent creative itch. In January 2022, the News reported on Crockett’s first exhibition, “Between the Lines,” mounted that year in a Dayton Street gallery space. At the time, Crockett was about a year-and-a-half past coming out as a transgender woman, and told the News that creating art helped her explore her identity further.

“Art helps me identify some aspects of what I’m feeling that I haven’t been able to articulate consciously,” Crockett told the News in 2022.

As time went on, however, Crockett said her long, sleepless nights of creation began to feel less like a treatment, and “more like a symptom.” The compulsion to create art, she realized, was driven by a kind of tension between what she’s come to understand are her dual selves.

Duality is a theme that Crockett said has shown up in her work on several levels over the years. In January this year, she wrote in her News column of her decision in July 2020 to come out as transgender, and how claiming her true identity meant bidding farewell to the one she’d lived with up until that point.

“The person I was, with all of their thoughts and memories, would never, could never, be again,” she wrote. “There was not room for two.”

Artist Iden Crockett amid some of the many digital photographs included in her mixed-media exhibition “4 a.m. Girl,” opening at the YS Arts Council Gallery Friday, March 15. (Photo by Lauren “Chuck” Shows)

However, Crockett said, there was room for a very different second self — the kind that compelled her to pick up a drawing pencil a few years back. She said she learned to draw originally because she felt compelled to depict her “shadow self” — a hidden force behind her creative inspiration.

She came to discover, however, that this sense of a second self was more literal than figurative — both her therapist and psychologist suggested that she might be experiencing other specified dissociative disorder, or OSDD. The term is a kind of catch-all category for personality disorders that don’t meet all the criteria for other diagnoses, like dissociative identity disorder, commonly known as multiple personality disorder.

Crockett described OSDD more simply: “It’s kind of like multiple personality lite.” She added that the suggested diagnosis, while surprising, brought greater understanding to her sometimes all-consuming creative ferocity.

“I think it’s why I started to make art — I never drew, and suddenly I had to learn to draw,” she said. “But over the years, this other identity has been more assertive in wanting to be seen as an individual and tell their story, and that’s where all this art comes from.”

Crockett pointed to her art as a kind of evidence of her other self, whom she said has shown up in imagery time and time again.

“You can see in my work the multiple faces, multiple heads, multiple hands,” she said. “At some point, I realized that was in service of this other part of me. … As soon as I was able to draw well enough, this other person started to show up in nearly every single drawing and piece that I’ve made since then, becoming more and more distinct as I’ve gotten more skilled.”

She said she decided to “lean in” to this new view of her work and her selves — and how they experience the world — when it came to presenting her work at the YS Arts Council Gallery.

Crockett said the way that the exhibition is displayed is meant to mimic the arc of her creative life over the last few years, in a way, with pieces on display giving the impression that they’re “going downhill, picking up momentum, going in a direction you can’t control anymore.”

At the same time, she said the final grouping of pieces — which she has subtitled “my blank white life” — will be partitioned off. The pieces will be exhibited in the gallery’s Wheeling Gaunt Room, separated from the rest of the show, as they represent a “very frank exploration” of not only Crockett’s dual selves, but her experiences with other mental health struggles, including self-harm and living with an eating disorder.

“I wanted to partition it off so I could put content warnings on it, but also to isolate the work from itself,” she said.

Ultimately, Crockett said, “4 a.m. Girl” is an expression of not only her realization of the individual identities of her dual selves, but an interrogation of how they might live and work in harmony.

She likened the experience to siblings who are estranged, but who have inherited a business from their parents and now suddenly have to work together to keep it afloat.

“You have to deal with each other, but you have very different ideas of how [the business] should be run, and it’s very important to you both that it be taken care of properly,” she said. “There are a lot of these undercurrents that came out in the same way that the notions of gender came out in my work — the notion that, if you’re together, what more can you be?”

An opening reception for “4 a.m. Girl” will be held Friday, March 15, 6 p.m.–9 p.m., in the YS Arts Council’s Robert F. Baldwin Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through April 14. For more on Crockett’s work, go to mynameisiden.com.

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One Response to “Crockett explores ‘dual selves’ in ‘4 a.m. Girl’ exhibition”

  1. Barbarajean says:

    Isn’t the “Wheeling Gaunt Room” the very section of the gallery where the YS Ukulele Club meets once a month? Will the room still be able to meet there in April or could there perhaps be an alternate location arranged in advance?

    I wish Ms. Crockett all the best with her artwork, but I don’t think any art exhibit should risk imposing on anyone who may not wish to view it, especially because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter. Nevertheless, good luck in all your artistic endeavors and life! Peace. Have a beautiful Spring & Summer!

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