Thoughts on the ‘Private View’

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Artefact 564

As a female artist (and yes, I believe, in this exhibition, it does make a difference) I seek to find a truth in my art practice, to tell a story – the private view – and to create a work that will resonate with the audience – the public view.  Work that will provide solace and support; that will provoke questions and may be even provide a few answers; to create talismans that aid and protect; sooth and succour.

In the role of artist-maker-storyteller, the performance is part of the whole.  I don my costume and step out into the spotlight.  Everything tells a story, everything.  The clothes we wear, the way we cut our hair, the shade of lipstick, the colours of our jewels; we like to think it makes no difference, as artist we are apart and somewhat separate, but it does, it tells the story of who we want to be in the moment of our command performance, as we step out into the spotlight for that brief second or two.

Usually, whilst working and creating I dress most practically – cotton dungarees and an old t-shirt; bare feet or birkenstocks – unless I forget and decide to just tweak a few threads whilst wearing black woollen trousers, which are now covered in Romney felted wool, the individual threads clinging with resolute stubbornness despite my best efforts to remove them.  The trousers, I fear, will never be the same again.

So, no matter my ‘otherself’, whether wife, mother, lover, tutor, friend, sister, daughter; it is perhaps the public role of artist that I find the hardest to dress for.  We say perhaps it doesn’t matter, but it does; we say perhaps they won’t be looking at us, but they will;  Maybe not at my clothes or the way I style my hair or the way my lipstick matches (or maybe clashes) with the ‘look’ but at my art, my inner story, my private view, exhibited, visible for all to see.

 

 

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Singing over the Bones

I came across this story whilst re-reading Women Who Run with Wolves written by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  I do think that Virginia may well have found some solace amongst these pages and the many stories found within … La Loba is one of my favourites for it gives permission to be, and hope to all who wander.  I have amended the story a little; the essence is still, I hope, intact.

There is an old woman who lives in a hidden place that everyone knows in their souls but few have ever seen, and there she seems to wait for the lost or wandering to come to her place. She is circumspect, often hairy, always fat, and especially wishes to evade most company.  She is both a crower and a cackler,  and generally has more animal sounds than human ones. 

One might say she lives among the rotten granite slopes in another’s territory.  Or that she is buried outside an unnamed town near a well.  Perhaps she will be seen travelling south to in a burnt-out car with the back window shot out.  Or maybe she will be spotted standing by the highway, or riding shotgun with truckers as they drive the land, or walking to market with strangely formed boughs of firewood on her back.  She calls herself by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, the Gatherer; and La Loba, Wolf Woman.

The sole work of La Loba is the collecting of bones.  She collects and preserves especially that which is in danger of being lost to the world.  Her cave is filled with the bones of all manner of desert creatures; the deer, the rattlesnake, the crow.  But her speciality is wolves.

Bared Bones - A working title

Fossil … relic … wolf … woman

She creeps and crawls and sifts the the montanas, mountains, and arroyos, dry riverbeds, looking for wolf bones, and when she has assembled an entire skeleton; when the last bone is in place and the beautiful white sculpture of the creature is laid out before her, she sits by the fire and thinks about what song she will sing.

And when she is sure, she stands over the criatura, raises her arms over it, and sings out.  That is when the rib bones and the leg bones of the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred.  La Loba sings some more, and more of the creature comes into being; its tail curls upwards, shaggy and strong.

And La Loba sings more and the wolf creature begins to breathe.  And still La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon.

Somewhere in its running, whether by the speed of its running, or by splashing its way into a river, or by way of ray of sunlight or moonlight hitting it right in the side, the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing woman who runs free towards the horizon.

So remember, if you wander the desert, and it is near sundown, and you are perhaps a little lost and certainly tired, that you are lucky for La Loba may take a liking to you and show you something – something of the soul.

 

Of Tall Tales & Short Stories – Inspired by Virginia; Part 2

Woolf tells a tale like no other, and to my slight shame (and I suspect I am not alone in this), although I knew of her, her work and her tragedies I had never sat down and read a single word until this past Winter.

I began, thinking to develop an understanding of this icon, not with a novel but with an essay, two in fact, that together created the somewhat (at least to me) shattering ‘A Room of One’s Own’.  Juggling a career, my creativity and my children, her words were quietly shocking and more importantly utterly inspiring. What a storm of thinking it must have caused; what aftershocks were left in its wake on it’s first airing, if I sitting at my kitchen table decades later, could be so stunned by its relevance to the life of the contemporary woman.

Inspired by her works, I have sought a greater understanding of her in the channels of social media; Pinterest; Instagram and Facebook; Tumblr & Twitter; Google & Wikipedia.  Virginia is everywhere, curiosity is rampant; her life and sadly her means of death, provoke far-reaching and deeply searching discussions and debates; collections of sepia-toned photographs and a plethora of biographies and opinions are available for all to view and read.

However, despite such explorations of our visually saturated world, I have found that for me Virginia is most visible and most inspiring within the pictures she paints of the lives that are lived in the words that she wrote.
“However, the majority of women are neither harlots nor courtesans; nor do they sit clasping pug dogs to dusty velvet all through the summer afternoon. But what do they do then? and there came to my mind’s eye one of those long streets somewhere south of the river whose infinite rows are innumerably populated. With the eye of the imagination I saw a very ancient lady crossing the street on the arm of a middle-aged woman, her daughter, perhaps, both so respectably booted and furred that their dressing in the afternoon must be a ritual, and the clothes themselves put away in cupboards with camphor, year after year, throughout the summer months. They cross the road when the lamps are being lit (for the dusk is their favourite hour), as they must have done year after year. The elder is close on eighty; but if one asked her what her life has meant to her, she would say that she remembered the streets lit for the battle of Balaclava, or had heard the guns fire in Hyde Park for the birth of King Edward the Seventh. And if one asked her, longing to pin down the moment with date and season, but what were you doing on the fifth of April 1868, or the second of November 1875, she would look vague and say that she could remember nothing. For all the dinners are cooked; the plates and cups washed; the children sent to school and gone out into the world. Nothing remains of it all. All has vanished.” 

(Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own)

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Of Tall Tales & Short Stories – Inspired by Virginia; Part 1

 

Women Sewing French PostcardLife has been busy and the whilst stitches have been stitched, they haven’t slowed time at all especially when it comes to updating social media, although a 3-year hiatus was somewhat longer than I intended.  What would Virginia think or even say of it all?   The insta-photos and face-journals and twitterings of so many.  Would she have indulged or avoided the daily dramas of such often self-imposed media demands?  Would it have altered her writings beyond recognition or would her words still have resonated across the ether?

One hundred years ago Woolf published her first novel and today she is considered one of the foremost modernist female writers of the 20th Century, a pioneer of streams of consciousness narrative; her work, themes and concerns remaining uncannily relevant to today’s society.

Wavelengths – A novel exhibition on Virginia Woolf is an all female group of contemporary artists who seek to interpret through installations, sculpture, photography, sound and video, Woolf’s written work on themes of memory, the passage of times, the corrosion and rejuvenation of life, the status of women in society, the consequences of war and existentialism.

Part of the Coastal Currents’ 20th Anniversary, Wavelengths – A novel exhibition on Virginia Woolf is being held at the Hastings Arts Forum, 36 Marina, St Leonard’s-on-Sea, TN38 0BU and runs from the 18th to the 30th of September, 11am until 5pm.

In The Dock

Tonight is the private view (5-8pm) for ‘In the Dock’.  This is an amazing show in an amazing location (The Old Surgery, The Historic Dockyards at Chatham) which runs from tonight until Saturday 11th July.  Hanging the show was a great success.  Maybe it’s working alongside people for 3 years but what could have been a challenge (take 40 plus artists, approximately 200 pieces of work plus the heat) became an inspiring, albeit exhausting, afternoon.  I’m proud to be part of such a great network

Leo's work from our final show.

Leo’s work from our final show.

Lorrain's latest work.

Lorrain’s latest work.

Jane and her beautiful pearls.

Jane and her beautiful pearls.

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James & Sam still busy curating.

James & Sam still busy curating.

Artwork everywhere

Artwork everywhere

Sound, performance, mark-making.  You could not ask for more.

Venetia’s fusion of media. Sound, performance, mark-making. You could not ask for more.

Tonight’s The Night

The final call is upon us, tonight we show the culmination of three years work (cue run screaming for the hills).  I am, in truth, partly excited, considerably terrified and perhaps a tiny bit ready to put all this behind me.  The work showing tonight, in theory, represents the end of a three year journey, however, I think it is perhaps the first, very tiny step at the beginning of new one.  Tonight’s the night, the quest begins anew.  It is the next chapter of my fairytale.

Artist Statement

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
― William Morris

… or perhaps stirs deep emotion.

As a new artist one strives to be individual, to be different from all those that have gone before and although we may be inspired by many, as artists, we seek to walk a different path.

With a magpie’s desire of acquisition, the urge to use many media from glass to text, muslin to clay, from watercolour to printmakers ink is all but irresistible; coming barely ahead of the urge to craft, to carve, to manipulate the idea through a transformative, process-driven conversion of matter until, by moving through so many different stages, the idea finds the medium through which it may be perfectly expressed – whether it maybe a glass vessel or an embroidered instructional sampler.

Inspired by William Morris’s call to create the useful and beautiful, ideas are drawn from fairy-tale, myth and legend; archetypes and symbols that have remained recognisable across time become contemporary talismans of both the monstrous and the feminine; framing what lies hidden and drawing it into the light.