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 why I do what I do

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Posts : 58
Join date : 2009-05-16

PostSubject: why I do what I do   Tue Aug 04, 2009 1:36 pm

“Why paint?” The question stared back at me in the slightly sweaty spotlight of the defense of my proposed master's project. The crowd stared at the question. And at me.

“Huh?” I asked. I wasn't sure I had heard him right. I bought myself a half second of time. I needed something at least somewhat plausible to answer back. “What do you mean?”

This question followed up his earlier one. Why did I use art as my voice in the first place? Why was I not a social activist? And why, in this having a message, saying something so strongly with my art, did I choose to use such a traditional, somewhat old-fashioned approach like oil painting?

I stumbled through my answers. Painting is my way of expression. I love the feel of the brush in my hand. Images can respond powerfully to other images. Somewhat convincing answers, I thought, given the circumstances.

But really, why did I paint? Why make images and silkscreen prints and twisted photographs?


Why do this at all? Why not join Females United For Action or National Organization for Women or any number of other feminist organizations battling injustice and exploitation on a more bureaucratic scale? Why did I persist in hammering away at something so political as the exploitation of women in advertising with a skinny, worn, orange paintbrush? Why indeed? My professor's questions nudged me with their elbows long after I left the stage.

This body of writing and my corresponding website of artwork works the issues I deal with on two levels. During the past year, I have read articles and books and reviewed countless advertisements and websites. My research on topics like advertising, prostitution, "real" and "constructed" image have translated into essays and new artwork.

We all know the old adage an image is worth a thousand words. And in today's world, we are surrounded by images. Most of the time, we don't consciously consider each image. We see one picture. We see another. Our visual vocabulary is jammed with advertisements shoved in our faces as we ride the train, grocery shop or watch TV. These images are all created through a particular filter, and all of them portray some kind of value. But what about the "reality" of an older woman's face on a painted cereal box selling only her own story and a lace of wrinkles, or a sexy woman melted into the cheese on a pizza? Can ad-like images work to sell different ideas, to question the norms that we easily see?

I make pictures to respond to the pictures I see around me. These images and words mirror my own ideals, yes, but like many others with whom I speak, I often butt up against these ideals.

A friend recently told me that "women don't always follow what the fashion gurus think they should." I agree to some extent. As we learn our histories, women are well aware of modern freedoms in the West. We are not robots and we are not the chattel of men. We are educated to be on a theoretically equal playing field with men. Yet, as Ariel Levy so persuasively argues in her book Female Chauvinist Pigs, our freedoms have merged for many into a lack of boundaries. We push and are pushed to strut our stuff, whether that means flashing cameramen on Girls Gone Wild or frequenting strip clubs with the boys. In Levy's words, "nobody wants to be the frump at the back of the room." 3 One feminist professor at a leading Ivy League school flaunted breast implants to prove that she was not tied down to a certain legalistic and archaic definition of feminism. 4

On a personal level, this body of writing and artwork is a processing of my surroundings. Because of what I see as a problem, I read, write and make images. More than just private musings though, I also hope to invite conversations. To hear the stories of women. To give space for venting, musings and new ideas...
1. Pizza Lady Vamp,
2. Next pot model,
3. Levy, 2005, 92-3.
4. Greer, 1999, 37.

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PostSubject: what is art?   Wed Aug 05, 2009 8:08 pm

ok so you like painting about feminist issues. you know you don't fit in the art establishment. we the critics are in charge. we are the chosen ones, the intelligentsia, who decide what is and what isn't "real" art. we decide who "makes it" and who doesn't. we hold the keys to the kingdom of "art". what can you give us to let you in, or rather, to bother to look at your work instead of quickly dismissing it as the work of an activist who likes to paint? we know the feminist song already. what else can you give us. do you know the "right" people? can you articulate the "right" conceptual discourse? that-how to "sell" yourself or please us, if you will-is something you'll have to grapple with. perhaps art is another form of prostitution....
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PostSubject: the well-known feminist spiel   Fri Aug 07, 2009 3:37 pm

You say you "know the feminist song already". So do I. We all know that women's bodies are used to sell. Many of us probably don't like this, if we look at the issue square in the face. Then why do we keep seeing sexualized images of the same kind everywhere? Why haven't things gotten better? Advertising "works" through catching the viewer's eye and selling an idea. This often translates into more skin, more sex, more images of "beautiful" people. We all know that sex sells whatever.

One of the things I try to do in my work is make satire of commercial images. I know I'm constantly riding a fine line between making more garish and grotesque, making a mockery, so to speak, and replicating the very thing I'm working against.

And as far as the question of who holds the "keys to the (art) kingdom", well, that's a whole other can of worms...
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PostSubject: Re: why I do what I do   Sat Aug 08, 2009 5:22 am

Very thought-provoking work and well done. Some of the images made me sick. I support you in your efforts to raise awareness, stimulate discussion and work proactively to perhaps bring change. Thank you for your work.
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PostSubject: Re: why I do what I do   Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:31 am

I think it's fascinating that you are doing this. Continue to follow your passions and dreams. They can only take you to a good place.

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