There's doing figural art work and there is using the figure in art work. I, at one time, created figural art work but I now consider my work as using the figure in/as art work. I do this not to sensationalize or titillate, despite how some outside the art world have thought about my work. (In fact, I don't think I'm at all controversial or ever have been).
I use the figure as an exploration of Self- the same investigation I was making when I created figural art work, except I made so much of itand still struggled to create the appropriate conversation around it. In the end and what encouraged me to rethink my approach is that the figure, no matter what movement or gesture I tried to use, still felt like a passive object that one applies marks to or around.
This hardly felt fitting. I spent many years building my work from the innocent or fallen archetype to the empowered. And yet it seems cliche for me, as I sit and type this. Believe me, I had the best of intentions. I have always told students, ALWAYS, that one needs to make everything they have made (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in order to know how to make what one makes today. I love when they say it back to me. But I digress…
I am winding down my time here- all too fast- and I just told someone that I wish I had made more. I'm not sure why I decided to learn new software. I'm not sure how my job took up so much time- but again, I know I would not be here without the support from it. All in all, there is no going backwards. Only forwards.
But I do think about the why of my work. I think what it all boils down to is how uncomfortable i am in my own skin. I mean, I know I have strengths but I am conditioned to dwell on my weaknesses. This is most likely because of my own making, but I don't discredit that this may very well be a symptom of gender.
I always liked to think that I rose up beyond the conditions of gender, asking the larger questions. But I come to realize that it is not just the questions we ask but also how we respond, isn't it? The two pieces I am showing in the our exhibition next week are entirely about response. When I was thinking about them last night, I realize I am working with a gendered response and these works are entirely back to square one- the fallen archetype. The one who feels without her own agency. The one who's thoughts are disconnected from her actions. One who suppresses rather advocates.
It's somewhat frustrating but obviously a pattern of mine. Doesn't the saying always go, "we repeat things until we learn from them?"
I had a critique last year with an artist- quite a positive one. I had made a piece (or exercise) that came from pure joy. It felt so different and he noted to try to work from different access points. I do think about that often however I begin to think that in order to "widen the lens" one must understand the source. Thoroughly.
My life swings between moments of empowerment dashed by crippling insecurity. Is this something I admit to on the internet? I guess to make my point this is exactly what I do. Let's rattle off all the phrases that women hear: Lean in; Personal is Political; "A woman is like a tea bag—you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water." (Eleanor Roosevelt); "I'm tough, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay." (Madonna). You'll love to know that I was reminded of those last two quotes from Bazaar magazine's article entitled "30 Empowering Quotes from Women Who Dare."
I'm so sick of hearing stuff like this. Women are so over-saturated with these messages of empowerment and strength that we say we hear it, we give it a "like" on social media yet we (the collective we) don't change the game. We continue to cope with a horribly skewed playing field (2016 Presidential Election, anyone?). We are "making it in a man's world” (gag) and while girls are being encouraged to love themselves for who they are (and I think this is great), there still is a huge current to swim against to get the same things as some others.
I'm almost angry that I have chosen to work from a place that reinforces a lack of power- Instead of "leaning in," one should sit this one out. But this is a frustrating reality of our gender and perhaps I grapple with wanting to be an outspoken, articulate warrior however remain authentic to my own experience. Perhaps this is a different kind of warrior, who knows.
As I reread what I have written here, I know that perhaps it is important to voice the conditions of gendered response. How many other women exist this way? Just a short few months ago, I swam in my confidence and possibility. Now, this moderately accomplished woman, can hardly advocate for the simplest of requests. Why the change? Perhaps it is because I had a huge life change this year and life changes always stir up questions of our self image but I tend to also question, are there other factors here?