Feature : Paige Geffen
Paige is someone I was drawn to instantly when discovering her page. We both live with autoimmune diseases, go through the world more slowly than the status quo, and view the varied forms of art [ ie : objects, clothing, writing, etc ] as something to be cherished, not commodified. There is a vulnerability shared in Paige’s stories that is rarely seen in the digital space. I love how playful Paige is too, it’s cool to see how other people find ways to spark their inner kid and curiosity. In this interview, we take a peek into Paige's mind and relationship with the world around her. Thank you Paige for sharing with us. A common thread with anyone we feature here is a deep care and intention. We'll continue to provide space for people to express themselves in new ways in hopes of starting new conversations. Hope you enjoy this read. And if you missed it or want to revisit, you can go a little deeper into our conversation here.
What are your current pronouns?
I prefer to go by she/her.
How would you define comfort?
This question is difficult for me to answer because I often don’t have any form of physical comfort within my body because of what I deal with in terms of chronic illness. When I think of comfort, I think of ease and contentment. In my life, I’m often dealing with constraint. I think I’m less interested in defining comfort, and more interested in the tension between comfort and constraint. There is a lot of juiciness to discover there. And perhaps, somehow, a lot of space. If I ask myself how I can make myself more comfortable within my constraints, resistance comes up. Then I have to confront the resistance and create space that seemingly is not there to begin with.
What is your relationship with yourself, time, and movement?
I laughed when I read this because the first thought that came to me was “in complete opposition to the way the world is set up/laid out”. My concept of/relationship to time is probably not even on this planet. I guess what I mean by that is, I don’t even know how to define it. I truly struggle with time management because I like to take things very slowly. I used to be a very fast-paced person, and eventually my body simply could not keep up. My mornings are very slow. I try to set up my days so that I have the time and space to work through my bodily discomfort, cook myself breakfast, walk Joni (my dog), and take some intentional time to journal and/or do some somatic experiencing. Movement is something I crave and feel very stagnant without. Sometimes the only movement I engage with is walking Joni, yet I usually make time to dance. Dancing is one of the most freeing practices in my life. I just let my body do whatever the fuck she wants. Moving to music is so healing. Somatic experiencing is less of a “letting loose” practice and more of an intentional movement inwards. I have to be in my body, engaging with its discomfort, and breathing space into those areas. My SE teacher always has me send love to the earth before we work together, and I like to think of this as an ongoing practice I’m in relationship with that never begins or ends, it just is.
Self-worth came up a lot in our IG Live ... Did anything in particular stick with you after the conversation / have any other thoughts built up since?
I think I touched on it in the above question - because we talked a lot about power within the self, and not subscribing to what’s laid out for us externally/societally. I’ve definitely been sitting more with this since we discussed it. It’s easy to talk about, yet harder to put into practice. I think of myself as someone who has a lot of inherent self-worth. It’s hard to describe because I don’t always uphold this in my actions, and especially not in my thought processes, yet I feel that I’m in touch with a power/presence in myself that is deserving of love - such big love. I don’t mean romantic love, but love as energy, as a way of being, as a way of engaging with everyone and everything. And yet, because two things can be true at once, I’m so fucking hard on myself. I am very critical, and yes, that can drive me to be/do “better”, or I guess to improve upon myself, but it can also keep me stuck, perfectionistic, and therefore avoidant. I think that ultimately, my resistance to “the way things are” is an ongoing dedication to self-worth. The system makes us question the inherent self-worth that we all have. That shouldn’t be so, but it is. So maybe there is no answer, yet some form or many forms of commitment in holding the question itself.
We both choose to move through the world more slowly, not subscribing to traditional consumption or output. There can also be difficulties in moving this way. So, I'd love to know. How do you stay true to yourself independent of external influences and feel okay with this pace of being?
Sometimes, in order to survive, that’s not fully possible. Yet I think it lies in my pausing and questioning. If I choose to do something that I know is counter-intuitive to myself yet necessary to get by, I at least know why I’m making the choice I’m making. One of the ways I show up for this is a bit more indirect to your question, yet I feel it’s related/interconnected - I try to remain in touch with my body/truth in my interactions with others. So I stay in my truth rather than solely responding to another. This is not a selfish act/way of operating, and I don't mean for it to come off that way. We can still meet another while staying true to ourselves. It's a dance, and I'm fully committed to choreographing that dance now. I left so many parts of myself behind for years in order to "properly respond" to another. I think it actually robs both beings of showing up fully empowered and embodied.
I know this is the first self-portrait series you're doing since last summer, how does that feel? Does anything in particular come up for you?
It’s actually the first since last Spring! While shooting this project, I got to be in touch with creative energies that have been put on the back burner for a while, and it was rejuvenating to face myself in that way. Self portraiture requires a lot of energy. There is of course a lot of intentional set-up involved because it’s much more difficult than photographing another person or subject, yet the energy I’m referring to is how much space-holding is required from myself for myself. Something that I’ve been working on in my photography since college is meeting the camera with the gaze of the subject. Of course this challenges the male gaze (that would require a whole separate interview/discussion in itself), yet there is a rawness required of myself to show up for this process. I know that I show up with more vulnerability when I’m photographing myself rather than when someone else is photographing me. The process itself is very emotive and personal. I cannot hide. And then I have to review the photographs, which often comes with a lot of self critique. The only way to allow the images to be released into the world requires some semblance of acceptance of everything I wish I could change, about both the images themselves, and myself. It’s oddly somehow freeing. A release - of who I think I should be, of how I think I should look, and of how my creative process ends up being received.
Are there any spaces, objects, or moments in your home that give you a deeper sense of comfort and peace of mind?
The view of the living area from my bed. I live in a big open studio, and my bedroom is separated by curtains. I leave them ajar so that I can see into the rest of the space. For some reason, that view makes me smile. There’s a sweetness of viewing the physical space from this perspective. I first moved into my current space in May 2020 and then moved out September 2020. I got to come back again this past winter, so I’m forming a whole new relationship with the space, since I am new. Also, there is a wall of solar windows in the entry/bedroom, and I watch the leaves dance on the trees through the windows when the wind blows. It feels like time stops when I witness this.
What are recent tender moments you can think of that bring you happiness and comfort?
Sharing physical touch/food/intimate conversation with close friends. One of my dearest friends came to my house recently after dinner, and we stayed up talking until nearly 2:00 am in the dark with music, candles, cherries, and herbal cigarettes.
Anytime I pause and truly go to Joni to bring her love and comfort with absolute presence feels very tender to me. It reminds me of how much I just go through the motions in life, and therefore of why I try to bring intentionality and slowness as much as I can. The receptivity she gives me solely with her eye contact and body movement is so heart opening.
I will also say - eye contact with certain people. Remaining in that dual gaze and not losing that contact is very intimate, and to me, very tender. It feels so incredibly vulnerable and powerful at the same time. I've been writing about this a lot lately.
What role does Object & Us play in your life?
Object & Us is not separate from my life. It is integrated into my life by both the way I move through the world as well as by how I relate to myself. There is a lot of pause and a lot of somatic work in Object & Us. My answer to the question below delves more into this.
This statement : external contemplation for internal realization...What meaning does this hold for you?
That is the backbone of Object & Us. Rather than projecting onto things through our external experience, or looking for validation externally, Object & Us asks us to utilize our reflection of the external world in order to be more in touch with our internal landscapes. This is also the backbone of my ongoing “work” with myself. It is in this statement that I dismantle everything I was taught in my upbringing and in the messaging I received throughout my life - that I have to have some sort of external validation or proof for my experience to be real and/or worthy. I hold wisdom within myself that no one else can give to me. And I also live in a rich, vast world to explore. So I continue to mirror this back to myself, to come into my own knowing, and even if it’s not knowing - my own being.
I'd love to hear more about the impact you'd like to make with the work you're doing. Can you share that with us?
This is a big question. I think it’s hard not to feel defeated by the state of things. When I tap in right now, if anyone feels more compelled to be in touch with/in their truth from engaging with my work, that feels like a huge impact to me. When I work with people in one-on-one sessions and witness this happen, I feel like I can stand behind what I’m doing. I hope this reverberates through one person taking the time to connect with an object/themself for a moment each day, as well as if they view one of my photographs or my read my writing.
You can explore, experience, and support Paige's necessary work & writing by following along on her Instagram or her website.
Linen Jacket + Linen Pant in Olivenite
Organic Handwoven Stripe Cotton Jacket + Pant