Happy 2016 Everyone!
Since I took a year off after showing at Art Prize in 2014, I have been trying to come up with another big idea to enter in 2016. For Art Prize, you kind of have to go big or your art will get lost among the crowd. The problem is, I hate working large. I’ve tried, but it’s just not as fun for me. I like the intimacy of smaller pieces that you really have to step right up to to acknowledge all the finer details. I also can’t imagine limiting myself to just one subject or image. With art, I tend to zoom around from one idea to another like a little bee who has accidentally found its way into someone’s cup of espresso. Because of this, I knew I wanted to do another series of smaller pieces hung together for impact. Another thing I have to be careful of, as with any artist, is falling prey to the “Master of None” syndrome. Master of None : Great television show, death when used to describe an artist’s body of work. After kicking around (and half starting) a variety of different ideas, I decided to stick to the conceptual portraits I have been developing over the last two years rather than trying a style that I like, but haven’t spent much time with. I will be doing a series of 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences.
A new piece will be released each month, with an accompanying title, “She Is ________________”.
January – She Is Far Away
As with much of my other portrait work, I find my inspiration in nameless antique photographs. The simple, faded photos tell me a story, which I then bring to life in my mixed media drawings. I was drawn to a photo of a young girl, her hair piled and molded into an elaborate, fashionable sculpture, draped in a fine, silken dress an adult would surely appreciate, but that did not look like it was very conducive to play. Her eyes had a far off look to them. Her expression was a mixture of bored and melancholy, but to me it even looked like she was trying to hide these negative emotions to remain neutral and pleasant for the camera.
In “January”, her traveling thoughts are personified as children’s drawings on a crumpled piece of notebook paper, flowing from her mind. Though she has been made up to look like a miniature adult, the very model of sophisticated fashion, her imagination dreams the dreams of children: dinosaurs, astronauts, rocket ships, and animal creatures of the air and sea. These thoughts are purposefully camouflaged into the rest of the image, the colors so paled and harmonious the viewer almost doesn’t notice. What does stand out is the heavy grid work of the window behind and the bold, contrasting pattern of the adjacent curtains. She is closed in, separated from the free, bright winter landscape outdoors, hidden behind frosted windowpanes.
How often are children treated like dolls, especially young girls? I mean last week, I was at the mall and I saw sparkly high heels for babies. You heard that right, high heels for beings that haven’t even entirely learned how to walk yet. Let me know how that works out. The words we use to describe them are even descriptors we would use for dolls : pretty, cute, adorable, beautiful … Now, there is nothing wrong with compliments, nothing wrong with telling someone they look nice. However, as parent Sharon Holbrook states in her Washington Post article Little Girls Don’t Need To Be Told They’re Beautiful, “The more I talk about beauty and looks, even in a positive way, the more I’m conveying the importance of those things.” Disproportionately young girls are complimented for their looks, while young boys are complimented for their performance. The thing is, looks change, and by emphasizing “prettiness” over all other traits, girls can be set up for poor confidence in the future. When girls feel that their value lies in how they look, it limits their perception of their own potential, and they will even start to limit the activities they engage in for fear that they will look “bad” or “ugly” while trying a new activity. I am a big fan of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and think it is just about one of the coolest organizations out there right now. This concept is behind Smart Girls’ Get Your Hair Wet campaign, encouraging young girls to live life the fullest, be open to trying new things, and focus on the experience itself rather than worrying about how you look while doing it. I remember being a kid, and seeing some of my female classmates refuse to get into the pool in swim class because they “don’t look cute with wet hair”, or not wanting to play tag at recess on a hot day because they might get sweaty and “look ugly”. Do you think any 9 year old boys were out there worrying about being sweaty???
All in all, it all comes down to a vocabulary adjustment, and complimenting girls on things that they actually have control over, rather than things gifted to them in the great lottery of nature. It comes down to being mindful, complimenting a young girl (or adult woman for that matter) on the creative way she put together the awesome outfit she is wearing, or the great smile she has when she gets excited about something. It also comes down to treating kids like kids; holding them back from trying to grow up too fast, letting them get messy, letting them wear things that might look insanely goofy, and allowing them to hold onto that complete lack of self-consciousness that comes with being a kid for as long as humanly possible.