Over the last couple of months, finishing staggered commission deadlines, I've managed to prep canvases for my upcoming autumn show. Now they loom in the corner of my studio, shuffling their feet impatiently, coughing for effect, "yo, is it our turn yet?" I find this stage of our relationship to be the most awkward. It's one thing to put a canvas through gesso bootcamp and show it who's boss. But, those canvases get a few primer treatments, find their place in the hierarchy of studio supplies, figure out the working hours, then show up in various states of expectation. Suddenly my authority is put to the test.
Imagine you're a little kid and everyone around you keeps asking, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" The possibilities are endless and you feel excited to know you can be ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO. It's thrilling to imagine riding on top of the fire engine in your slick black boots or decorating 16 tiers of the cake you just baked with all the frosting roses you could ever eat. You could fly a rocketship! You could be a rockstar! You could be president of the United States! This is how i feel my canvases see their future - that it is their oyster and i am their sand and all we gotta do is rub up against each other until they each turn into their very own shiny pearl. Sweet little naive idiots.
Now imagine you are a 30-something-year-old woman trying to make it in the art world and everyone keeps asking you, "what do you paint?" The possibilities are endless and you feel like you should be excited to know you can paint ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO. Its thrilling to imagine all the fire engines and cakes and rocketships and rockstars and Presidents of the United States you can paint. Isn't it? Or do you find that this question comes loaded and ready to project political, intellectual, and spiritual worth all over the answer?
Here is an incomplete list of subject matters i have enthusiastically tackled over the past fifteen years: sailing, horse diving, eggs, funerals, fruit, conversation, weaponry, underground chambers, driftwood, wallpaper, air travel, supper, toys, animals dead and alive, mandalas, diamonds, boats. The only consistency amongst these is the women I included along the way.
When asked what it is that I paint, it seems truthful, yet wordy, to rattle off a list of A-Z. When pressed, I often simplify to say that I paint the female form. This is so true of my work that at one point I simply titled an entire show "Women in a Situation" because that neatly summed up what I continue to paint; I am a woman and I am often in a situation. What continues to confuse and frustrate me is this inevitable followup, to get to the why of my need to continue painting women, no one will say it outright, but it seems a justification needs to be made for so many ladies to take up residence in my portfolio/workspace/head.
Should I warn my canvases that all their hopes and dreams of becoming a painting can not be realized without the pressure and weight of a reason behind their existence? That's hard enough for women, I really don't think 100% cotton should be subjected to such scrutiny.
i don't know what it is that I am painting, and I also don't know the why. I don't know what my canvases want to be when they grow up, they probably want to be everything and also not have to work for a living. I'm just trying not to shit all over their choices and make them explain themselves to death. They depend on me to give them an identity while i am busy trying to allow them the space to find their direction. That symbiosis is a quiet space filled with heavy cursing.
currently painting: flowers.