Conflict of interests

How is it already the 4th week of my MFA? Yikes.  So much time has passed and yet I have very little work to show for it.  I critique next week and I am very much anxious about getting something produced in the time between now and then.

I had a meeting on Friday with Carmen Winant, a faculty member here at CCAD who teaches a variety of theory/art history based courses with both Graduate and Undergraduate students.  I knew she would be a great person to talk to about my work and ideas because of her background in feminist theory/history and her personal work.  Also, considering nearly everyone I have spoken with about my work and ideas has recommended I speak to Carmen.

Anyway, I think she made a great recommendation for me in regards to beginning my work.  She suggested that instead of focusing on one specific topic, think of a broader or more general idea/concept and in a way build from there.  For example, don’t think so much about maybe just doing work involving menstruation and women’s experience with that, but think more about this idea of “betrayal” of the body and expand on that.

I agree that starting with a larger concept will help flourish some broader ideas and also facilitate more exploration through making.  My struggle however, is that although I wanted to take a break from making work about the body this semester, I seem to have circled right back into it…granted, the concept and idea of the body betraying itself and these issues women face internally and externally is much different than that of my previous work that explored the female form abstractly.  Regardless, I am still really drawn to the idea of domesticity and life within the home and the role that women play in it.  Originally, this is the topic I wanted to explore more and dive into and why, in a way, I had started to think of motherhood and it’s stressors so much.  In my thinking about motherhood, however, I started to think about the body and seemed to have lead myself to this idea of body and betrayal.  (See blog post titled 28th day).  I am not totally against making work about the female body in this new way and exploring it, but I really don’t want to lose this interest in domesticity just yet and not take this time to further my interest and exploration in it.  The first semester of my MFA, as many have told me, is really about exploration with not only materials, but concepts and ideas as well and so at this point, I am going to continue to explore the concept of domesticity as well possibly allowing it to become the forefront of my artistic work.

I have received an immense amount of responses from people willing to participate in my Call to those who Bleed, and so I am not throwing all of those ideas and things away, but for now, while I wait to receive stories in the mail and really figure out what else this idea of bodily betrayal could become, I am also going to explore some ideas in relation to domestic life and a woman’s role within it.

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A call to those who bleed.

I had a great meeting with my mentor, Helen Hoffelt, this past Wednesday.  I showed her some of the craftwork I had started and explained my struggle with the work being too kitsch or for those not in the art world- a bit too crafty/tacky and over the top.  I liked the thought process I was going through and thinking about menstruation along with the physical and emotional weakness of the female body as a means to result in inferiority as gender and so we started throwing some ideas around.  She enjoyed the feminine materials I was using and so we worked off of that a bit.

I have a quilt in my studio that I made in 2013.  I printed a female nude and used some basic floral fabric as trim to recreate the nude image as a squared quilt.  Both Helen and I enjoy the piece, but she made an excellent point… the image is too soft or safe.  She brought up the fact that I am trying to talk about raw, real, and personal topics but the image on that quilt isn’t a raw image or even personal for that matter.  It’s also a cropped image so the figure has no face and her full body isn’t exposed – she becomes an object and not necessarily a “person.”  Anyway, throughout our discussion we kept talking about experience and how I want to make comments and start conversation about the experience of being a woman: the stress that a woman’s body endures and then in turn, emotionally as well.

So for now, I am making a call to those who bleed.  I am looking for stories that share personal experience from any person that has experienced and/or continues to experience menstruation.  I am asking that the stories or statements be hand written and mailed to me in Columbus, Ohio.  I think this will add an element of personal narrative that otherwise would be lost in type or email messaging.  If you are interested in participating in the project please contact me and I will send you my personal address.  Also- please see below for a more detailed description of what I am looking for.  Right now I don’t know exactly what I will do with these stories, but the wheels are definitely turning.

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Everyone experiences womanhood differently and each experience is inherently personal.  I’d really appreciate if you’d be willing to share with me any experience you have had with your period that sticks out to you. Perhaps a short paragraph or few sentences about the first time it happened, where and when? How did you feel? Or if it’s something that you constantly struggle with for example, excessive cramping or fatigue that keeps you from work or school, please share. Emotionally how do you usually feel? Do you act differently towards anyone or anything? Do you find yourself more on edge and maybe have a story to tell about a time you emotionally lost it, simply because your hormones were out of whack. To anyone that has been pregnant as well, how was that experience for you?  What was it like to actually not have your period for an extended amount of time, but instead have other hormonal things going on?  Truly it is totally up to you how much you want to share and how detailed you want to be. I’ll take whatever you’re willing to give, whether it be a sentence, a word, a paragraph, etc.
I am truly humbled and amazed by the amount of people that have reached out and offered to be part of this, so thank you! I can’t wait to see what it comes of it all!

 

 

The 28th day…

The pressure of making some work has been very evident over the passed week.  After my paper venture I hadn’t begun to make anything else and have been feeling lost at where to begin so I started asking myself some QUESTIONS:

Keeping this concept of craft in my mind, what kind of crafts can I do?

Thinking about women in society, what makes us seen as the “lesser than” gender?

What holds women back from opportunity?

What responsibilities or obligations are women asked to fulfill that men are not?

ANSWERS:

I can crochet, sew, make paper, embroider, weave.

Lesser than… hmm, well women are usually seen as more emotional and caring human beings.  Women are also not physically as strong as men, or able to perform the same sort of physically daunting tasks as men due to genetics, anatomy, hormones, etc.

Women are held back by being given the role of motherhood, in addition to working.  Women are also held back from opportunity just simply because they are women. Again, our lack of physical strength or size can also hinder us from certain opportunities.

The biggest responsibility that I can think of that men do not have to foster, is motherhood.  Not only the physical act of carrying a child but also the emotional and mental stress that comes with carrying the child as well as the obligations that follow once that child is born.

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When thinking about these questions and answers, I was continuously being brought back to this concept of motherhood.  The pressure that women face to make decisions within their life based around whether they want to have children or not.  Do I work or do I stay at home? If I choose to work, am I a bad mother? If I stay at home, am I lazy?

I began to think about the PRESSURE, the STRESS, the ANXIETY that encompasses it all.  The idea of being SUFFOCATED by these pressures… visually I began to see ideas and think about the WEIGHT of being a woman.  For example…

 Being smothered, or almost suffocated by daily obligations.  Using crocheted objects/sculptural forms as means to cover the mouth and nose of a woman and photograph her portrait…

Making mounds and mounds of diapers…possibly in a room, on a bed, and photographed, but giving the diapers some sort of physical weight to give meaning to the pressure and daunting task of what motherhood truly is.

The idea of a chain and shackle with a woman’s  foot chained to an object that represents a child (diaper, rattle, pacifier) but again giving it this enormous weight or size.

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Thinking more about motherhood and this idea of women as the “lesser than” gender in comparison to men, I started looking more into what those things are that cause that thought to be so.. Motherhood as I mentioned being one of them, but then also the idea of our body, our physical size and anatomy as another.  I began to then think about the processes a woman’s body goes through and recognized women are also often determined inferior because they easily show emotion whereas men do not. Being emotional if often seen as a sign of weakness.  In regards to that, every 28 days a woman menstruates, causing her hormones to be on high alert, often causing an unpredictability in attitude and emotion, or as many would say causing her to be crazy.  Through these thoughts I came to the conclusion that the female body is a major factor that causes society to view women as inferior. The female body, which many would say makes women so beautiful is also unfortunately attributing to their own demise. A betrayal of sorts…

Every 28 days a woman menstruates and is emotionally unpredictable… because of what’s going on in her body.

A woman anatomically is not built the same as a man, making her physically weaker- even if that woman is in decent shape and fit.

A woman that is pregnant and carrying a child, is a combination of both – emotionally unpredictable, physically weaker…all because of what is going on in her body. 

I started making “art” while thinking about these ideas.  I applied the craft making skills I mentioned above to explore the idea of the female betraying herself unconsciously simply just by being female.  I am thinking about the beauty of the body, of objects or symbols that are seen as inherently feminine and combining them with the instability of emotion and physical weakness that also at times comes with being female through craftmaking.  I don’t really know exactly what I am doing just yet, but it’s a start.

Books, books, and more books…

So yesterday I went to the library on campus to find some more books for research and inspiration.  Recently I have been reading (or trying to read) Caitlin Flanagan’s book To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Your Inner Housewife.  So far, I haven’t gotten much further than the last time I read it.  The first chapter and introduction are consumed with ideas about the modern wedding; the over done decorations, pricey dresses, and class appropriation that occurs.  I have been waiting for the concepts pertaining to women and the home to arrive, but it doesn’t seem that they are coming.  Upon reading some more reviews about the book, it doesn’t seem that they will ever truly get there.  Flanagan discusses her more personal experiences as a mother.  Quitting her job to take care of her children, and then hiring a nanny to help her out.  From what I have heard in reviews, she never seems to take a stand on the idea of domesticity and women.  At this point I have put the book on hold and re-picked up Gail Collins’ When Everything Changed, a book I began reading in 2014 that I loved and also sparked some artist projects.  Here’s to hoping that will happen again!

 

BUT! In regards to the library I think I’ve got some great resources, (see below).   I also have some books on hold at the Columbus Metropolitan Library that I will pick up tomorrow, so let the reading begin!  I started making some work last night as well, so stay tuned for that post shortly!

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Family: n. a group of related people including people who lived in the past

When thinking about who my creative and intellectual family are some pretty clear names come to mind. But most of the artists I am thinking of relate to my work that involves and explores the body, which is a body of work (no pun intended) in which I am taking a step back from for now.  With this in mind, my search for some more contemporary feminist muses is in the works and I am continuously trying to find new artists and writers to be inspired by, but for now, the list, in no particular order, stands as follows:

Andre Kertesz

These images are what began my obsession with the abstraction of the female form.  I am in awe of the simplistic beauty of the black and white images Kertesz took in the 1920s.  There are over 200 photographs within his series exploring the form.  The images have a very surrealist quality which inspired me to create a body of work in 2013 and 2014 attempting to achieve similar aesthetics. (see below)

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Polly Penrose

http://pollypenrose.com

I’m interested specifically in her decision to pose the body in an uncomfortable/straining position, and the interesting relationship created between the body and its environment.

“The process of taking the pictures is punishing. It leaves me bruised and aching. Every picture is taken on self-timer, which makes for a repetitious, highly physical process of running between the camera and the pose, making adjustments as I go. It feels like I’m hammering my body into the landscape of the room, one picture at a time.” -Polly Penrose

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Connie Imboden

http://connieimboden.com

Connie Imboden has been creating photographic work exploring the body since the 1980s. I am drawn to the way in which she continues to develop her abstraction of the body.  She works with both the male and female form, sometimes combining both within an image.  Her most recent work has a more painterly style,  but I find her earlier work particularly inspiring and beautiful.

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Candace Jahn

https://candace-jahn.squarespace.com

Another photographer exploring the abstraction of the form.  I love these images not only for their aesthetic beauty as photographs, but I also really love the way in which they were chosen to be displayed as well as the size of the final works.  I think this work speaks specifically to images I created exploring the form through mirrored mylar. (shown below)

sharynbeodeker_biennial2016

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Other (more well known) artists I am inspired by include, Judy Chicago, Janine Antoni, Kiki Smith, and Miriam Shapiro. Writers include Gail Collins, Linda Nochlin, Caitlin Flanagan.

Some literary and photo books include, Reframings: New American Feminist Photographies: Edited by Diane Neumaier, To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Your Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan, When Everything Changed by Gail Collins, Role Models: Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography by Susan Fisher Sterling and Kathryn Wat , Girl Culture by Lauren Greenfield.

The list of artists and writers that inspire me is never ending and always evolving; a “to be continued” sort of concept.  Below is a video I found particular interest and inspiration in over the past year.  I am looking forward to continuing to build both my intellectual and artistic family as I expand my artistic practice this year, and throughout my future as an artist.

 

And so it begins…

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The first two or so weeks here at CCAD, to say in very basic terms, have been great.  I have met with some faculty to discuss the possibility of what my project could be and how I can get started.  I am still very much interested in ideas involving feminist background and figuring out how to incorporate that conceptually with craft and/or photography.  In regards to that, I am at times overwhelmed with ideas and thoughts, often not knowing where to begin.  The past 5 months or so I have been enthralled with the idea of making my own paper with the idea to possibly print photographs on it and so that’s where I have decided to start. So far I made 5×7″ and 8×10″ sheets out of cotton balls and also a set out of a mixture of toilet paper and dryer sheets.  The quality isn’t quite where I’d like it to be, but I have begun some more research into obtaining abaca fibers to  make a higher quality of paper.

At this point I am truly interested in the idea of craft as Fine Art and how I can begin to incorporate it into my work, or in some way continue to make work that comments and facilitates conversations about feminist issues.  Upon meeting with a faculty member today we discussed moving in that direction and at this point putting a hold on my work that abstracts the female form.  I have completed that body of work and explored it to nearly its fullest extent.  My heart is truly encompassed in this concept of craft and so although it is unchartered territory and I feel very unsure about what I am going to make- there is no time like the present to get started and give it a shot.

In addition to spending time in my studio and trying to sort out my own thoughts, classes have also begun!  I truly have enjoyed the conversations that have been facilitated thus far in my critical theory course.  I am finding that although the texts are challenging I am enjoying the process of navigating through them; asking questions, hypothesizing, and forming my own ideas from what I am reading and also from what my cohorts are sharing.  Digital Culture is proving to be a great informative class and also inspiring interesting discussion between our first year group.  I am keen to see everyone’s work on Thursday as we officially open up our Grad Seminar class.  Thankfully no critiques just yet, but I am excited to see everyones ideas and chatter about what they are interested in come to life.