Portrait of the Artist as Object (1979)
Moving into art from my earlier education in English Literature, I was interested in what was becoming exceedingly confusing to me, the idea of being an “artist”. For years I would not identify myself as such because most of the role models for this classification were not inspirational. Often the models presented were male, espousing all sorts of bad behaviors excused by the word “artist”.
Then there were public perceptions of the “artist”: inarticulate, crazy, non-conformist, non-intellectual, dissipated in some fashion (drunk is one aspect), promiscuous, a loner and so on. Most of the characteristics were male related, but not all.
At the time I was in grad school in the late 1970’s the place for women in art was still pretty precarious. Women had clearly been the objects in most art forms, but were not as recognized for being artmakers themselves.
Navigating the many stereotypes was a journey for me. Researching beyond my own experiences, which were many and often weirdly uncomfortable, I found a wealth of information in feminist writing, art, performances and videos that gave my own experiences a context. At last I could relate.
So research I did and I used some of my findings to give academic papers, to inform my teaching and of course, in my own art production. I moved from minimalist, non-representational images to paintings, prints, videos, performances and eventually audio installations that spoke of my experiences and research in a manner that was congruent. This was a relief.
This particular photo documentation was done at the end of grad school as a resistance to the notions of “artist” that I was rejecting. The strips of white cotton cloth were meant to reference the practice of binding a woman’s feet, keeping her off balance and dysfunctional in the world. In this case, I placed myself into complete bondage and slowly left it behind. It felt like living sculpture.
It was a new beginning for me and really was my good-bye to the strange and sometimes demeaning grad school experiences. I successfully completed my Master’s degree despite the chaos I caused by being articulate in my practice, medium diverse, and dealing with ideas as much as with technique. I editioned a screen print of myself fully wrapped, the first image, for the invitation to my master’s exhibition. The title of the show was Indications of Time, Process and Change.