I am looking at the surveilled, private space of the mall as a “suitable” feminine space.
I am also taking a look at shopping, often portrayed as a mindless and passive form of leisure, as a form of productive labor for many american women. I am specifically examining the ways in which traditional women’s work in a family economy is no longer done start to finish by hand; instead tools/products are sold to women. Many purchases like cleaning supplies and food are further transformed through labor; or they replace older forms of labor such as the provision of clothing, gifts, cultivation of food and fibers, etc. When I write that tools/products are sold to women, I mean this not just literally ( because I recognize that many- even most- men also shop, cook and clean) but also that we are the primary targets of advertising and the resultant work is deemed feminine.
I find the idea of passive consumption unnuanced; and an example of a prevalent and negatively valued femininity in a culture where women do more than 80% of consumer spending. This is not an excuse for our nation’s gross and harmful consumptive practices. I do mean however to examine this particular gender stereotype, and in turn the ways in which women exercise authority and are, contrary to popular representation, in fact producers.
I am doing trace monotype, paper lithography and encaustic work this week at the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY. Here are some of the first prints, from drawings and photographs I did at the Maine Mall in Portland.
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Excerpts below are from a narrative collage drawing regarding production, consumption and gender, and the private/public space of the mall. I am still working on the written component…sigh.
I am away from my blog this April because I am employed! as a backcountry caretaker. The hut is located eight miles from a road and on the edge of a NH wilderness area, and nobody comes to visit this time of year. I switch caretaking duties with Julia Simons, but we don’t actually see each other and so communicate solely through the caretaker log. It really is my only source of human interaction…
Dispatches from Zealand Falls Hut:
(…Dave and Beth are the caretakers who preceded me and Julia. Beth did the AT in like, a day. I believe she fueled up on pine cones)
Yes, there is a crazy moose on the loose! He has been charging people, and nearly stepped on one young girl and “tree-d” another couple. I asked a couple folks about his behavior, and was told repeatedly “oh you know, young males!” Actually, I don’t really know any “young males” who behave like that…curious.
(The moose is territorial about the trails because they are open and packed, thus easier for a huge moose to navigate in the depths of winter.)
PS: Here you can check out former caretaker Christian McNeil’s article about urban and suburban relationships to wilderness mythology, and living conscientiously wherever you are. He also keeps a great urban geography blog called The Vigorous North.
I will be away from this blog for most of April
. . .
i’ve been hard at work on some comics, which i will post when i’m done!
Or at least I think I might. For now I have some old ones on my drawing page, and these doodles:
(↑ it’s me! age 15! at school in france! ↑)
I finally updated my drawings page! I apologize for the miniscule or blurry text on some of the images– I couldn’t make the files big enough without wrecking everybody’s computers.
I’m working on a series of lino block Valentines Day cards. They are supposed to be a little corny/humorous, and will feature musicians playing in various portland, maine locations.
here’s the first pattern: the accordion player is playing at chandler’s wharf. i’m thinking of drawing a violin player next, sweetly playing on the roof of Custom House parking garage in Old Port. It has such a terrific view of the city and casco bay.
I’m also working on several graphic correspondences that I’ll post when I’m done.
I spent the month of November at the Vermont Studio Center, which is the largest artist residency in the USA. If you are a visual artist or writer you should check them out because they have a lot of work-study and scholarships and you can go for 2-12 weeks, year-round. It is a particularly international and age-diverse residency.
I began to work on a narrative piece at VSC, which I am still working on, so I am posting pictures of the work in my studio. Here is the blurb I posted next to the work I hung in the VSC gallery:
I am working on a heterosexual erotic story, in an attempt to articulate a female gaze. The story is an encounter with the male gaze, in a scenario that has been historically portrayed as a passive and objectifying encounter for women.
I think there’s something intrinsically objectifying about masculine desire; (’I see it, I desire it’) but also something very erotic about being an object of desire. I’m exploring this pervasive male visuality through female eyes (I’m speaking through my own eyes of course, although the character is a fictionalized version) and trying to rearticulate this encounter so it’s not a silencing or disabling one. Instead I want to express it from an active position, as a subject who is authoritative in her position, which will add one voice and complicate the historic representation by another (male) of a woman as the object.
This particular story involves a male-artist and a female-model; however the subject in the story is the female model. The story is articulated through this one woman’s eyes; literally; and her body never appears. The story unfolds through her gaze, where her eyes linger. So the viewer/reader is led by her but is in some sense the subject too, as they inhabit her corporal point of view.
The drawings are created from memory, fantasy and from existing images. The images I collected and incorporated are from magazines, “fine” art, romance novels, facebook, personal photographs, and film stills. In other words, the story is created from a collection of images; the sources were those that I think have transmitted this categorical narrative to me in the first place.
I want to think carefully about the degree to which the male gaze causes women to see themselves through the eyes of others, and how to challenge that through the story.
I hope this explicitly derivative imagery helps any viewer, like me, consider the narratives that we passively absorb, and also suggests that we might exercise power by becoming more proactive subjects who are capable of speaking from precise and distinct perspectives.
It’s not that the sexual power of women over men is absolute or unproblematic. I want to think more about how this position is symptomatic of a widerspread phenomenon: women often gain power through men. This position is also tied to youth, which (among other problems) makes it an unstable kind of power, still dependent, upon hetero men; but then again no power is perfect or absolute. The eroticism of the story depends upon two individuals meeting as equals. Men always have the option to take the sexual power of women back from them through sexual violence, and the power of women is always contingent on that trust.
The series is meant to examine my mental space, and is not meant to express any monolithic feminine sexuality. The topic is fantasy, and explicitly unfolds within the space of one fictionalized woman’s mind. It’s about imagination, not concrete interactions (erotica).
I looked at scores of images of American politicians speaking, and tried to formulate a vocabulary of ‘leadership;’ ‘command’ and power based on their posture, dress, and gesture. Here is one example.
This lithograph addresses the image of the wheat or cornfield, which I see as a fundamental part of an American glossary.