Integrative Seminar/Studio 1: Sentimental Object Essay

Sentimental Object Project – Zelda Fitzgerald


During my research, I focused on Zelda Fitzgerald’s mental health issues. I chose this topic because it had a similar connection with my life. Zelda Fitzgerald was an American socialite and was born in the 1900’s and died in 1948 due to the fire in a mental asylum in North Carolina. The object I studied was an illustration of a concept for Zelda. Concentrating on the 1900’s era, the historical research invited me to explore the culture that the people experienced during that time. Upon just the culture, the original American flapper was also based on Zelda Fitzgerald. For this project, I wanted to create an object that incorporated a feel, look, and touch which then also portrays Zelda’s emotions initiated by individual and personal experiences.

According to the book, The Collected Writings included the letters that were sent to F. Scott Fitzgerald during their time apart. She mentioned how much she wanted to ignore the prescribed pills from the Highland Mental hospital and said, “I rather take carbonic acid” (The Collected Writings) in her letter to Scott. Collecting the quotes that stood out the most to me and were related to the topic helped me to develop my ideas for the object that I will be creating. After brainstorming my ideas, I decided to create a helmet-like structure that was capable of putting a person’s head in. It was challenging to find a proper media to use for this because none of the materials that were suggested stood out to me. After the studio critique, I got the idea to use papier Mache to build the head structure. My process began with using chicken wire as the draft shape, but I decided to keep the wire between the layers of the papier Mache because it created a different texture to the piece. Since the chicken wire is a material I have not used, it was challenging to cope with the attachment of the paper and wire together.

After layering the object three times inside and outside, I began to break through the variety of colours that may be substantial to Zelda’s life. I chose to have black on the inside because it represented the difficult times she has been through and her experience with this illness. Additionally, using white paint on the outside because it made the object look like bandages which also implied that her head was wrapped inside of a head piece. When I researched Zelda’s mental health issues, the most popular results were titled “How Crazy was Zelda?” and “Zelda Wasn’t Crazy.” This led my research to another perspective because of what she was diagnosed with, which was Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a disorder that can affect a person’s ability to think, feel, behave normally and clearly. Zelda was not crazy. Calling a woman crazy is commonly used to give a stereotype and to criticize mental illness. Therefore, not only include the definition of “mental health issues” but also how other people understand the meaning of mental health. On the inside of the structure, I had small cut up pieces of silver vinyl paper to substitute an actual broken mirror and I want it to represent a shattered mind. It also has “Death is the only real elegance” (Save Me from the Waltz) is written in white bold letters because I thought it was the most powerful quote. “…when I get out of your clinic it will be with an idea: to arrange myself in any condition to be able to breathe freely. Life, beauty, or death, all that is equal for me” (Zelda A Biography) is another quote I chose because it showed that she didn’t care about life, beauty, or death and they were all meaningless. Additionally, I added an actual mirror because I wanted to create a sense of distortion and an uncomfortable feeling for the viewer when they put the piece on.

Overall, the research I did provided a base where I was able to get my ideas and inspiration from and it guided me to make a connection between the materials I used. From this final project, I learned more about my chosen persons and the culture back in the 1900’s. Secondary sources such as a biography and The Collected Writings helped me develop my ideas because of the quotes. In this way, the information based research played a huge role in my object and it had a successful outcome at the end.

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