My Trophies (Mes Trophées). 1987. Two acrylic, charcoal, and pastel on gelatin-silver prints with wood frames, overall 81 1/8 x 67 inches (206 x 170.2 cm). Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Purchased with funds provided by the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Clyde and Karen Beswick, Linda and Jerry Janger, Ronnie and Vidal Sasson, Sharleen Cooper Cohen, David and Susan Gersh, and Bonnie Wilke.

In a group of works made from 1986 to 1988 titled My Trophies, Messager drew upon the less-regarded arts of tattooing, palmistry, chiromancy, and children's book illustration, as well as medieval manuscript illumination, to create photographs of body parts that were drawn over with whimsical figures, arcane symbols, and decorative marks. These appear to be fragments of bodies, but are estranged and transformed through drastic changes in scale.


My Trophies (Mes Trophées). 1986. Acrylic, charcoal, and pastel on gelatin-silver print, 10 1/4 x 11 3/8 inches (26 x 28.8 cm). Collection the artist.

My Trophies (Mes Trophées). 1986. Acrylic, charcoal, and pastel on gelatin-silver print, 9 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches(24.1 x 24.8 cm). Collection the artist.

Hung up high on the wall and tipped out at the top to loom over the viewer, or small and isolated so they appear very precious, they are removed from immediate experience. Some are transformed into other things through the covering up or the enhancement of their own characteristics: buttocks become a primitive face, a nose a small hut, the palm of a hand a landscape. Each one becomes an object of curiosity or devotion; reminiscent of reliquaries or ex-votos, they are a point of departure for reverence and reverie, curious meditations on physicality and transformation.

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The Lines of the Hand (Les Lignes de la main). 1988. Acrylic, charcoal, and pencil on gelatin-silver print, framed in wood, and colored pencil on wall. Collection the artist.

The group which directly followed, The Lines of the Hand, made in 1987-88, also consists of photographs of body parts, pictured close up and enlarged, and covered with arcane figures. These images are firmly anchored in the gallery space, set on top of columns of repeated words written directly on the wall in colored crayon. The words come from a vocabulary that Messager maintains as a long list. The words refer to states of emotional revelation--trust, protection, rumor, hesitation, fear--and they are repeated endlessly down the wall from the image to the floor. Like the verbal repetition of a word over and over, their reiteration drains meaning from them, reducing them to mere form; they become elements of ritual architecture, visually supporting the images on the wall like pillars.

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