In the fall of 2016, following a series of traumatic incidents, I decided to leave New York and move to Honduras to live with my missionary parents. As I adjusted to life in Central America, I experienced a feeling of alienation so intense it began to author alternate-reality versions of me, including Baleada Queen, a mentally-ill telenovela actress struggling to stabilize while clinging to the remnants of stardom. This project is about her. It’s about isolation, mental illness, voyeurism and the meaning of beauty and celebrity in the digital age.
I chose to tell her story on Instagram (initially) because the site encourages the same kind of obsessive self-focus which isolation provokes. I began by posting self-portraits taken with flash photography. I wanted to create a stark but beautiful otherworld: one in which Baleada Queen appeared hopelessly trapped. With its built-in catalogue of filters, Instagram is also conducive to conversations about the way we manipulate images to create the illusion of beauty, which I explore through airbrushed portraits that distort my (her) features into a grotesque notion of perfection. As time went on, I began to incorporate external elements, cloning and collaging airbrushed limbs, my dog and a “home-sweet-home” painting over the portraits to convey a sense of imprisonment and suffocation.
Eventually, I began posting short videos in which Baleada Queen shares disconcerting insights and outbursts in a crystalline deadpan. In one, her disembodied head floats around her as she recites a poem about discarded wisdom. Her posts have become increasingly complex and bizarre, raising the question: is the cure sometimes worse than the illness itself? Her journey to recovery is inextricably tied up in my own, as she continually detaches from and reattaches to herself, discovering new means of expression and ways of relating to her illness, her projected image and the world at large.