Wednesday, 19 September 2007

My mother has golden hair

When I was in 6th grade I told the girl sitting next to me in class that my mom had golden hair. She wasn’t impressed. I remembered this when I was thinking about titles for this work: an everyday object transformed into something that expresses a set of new emotions and fantasies. The daughter’s longing to be like the mother she idealises. The artificial blond hair which has been obsessively threaded into the brush maybe putting into doubt the reality of the mother’s beauty and the daughter’s perception as well as the possibility of ever becoming like her idol. The work has a strong performative element and questions gender as well as the reality and fictions of the mother-daughter or in fact any formative relationship. It is now itself an object of beauty – with the mane of soft blond hair flowing from the brush and replacing its original steely bristles it is simultaneously tender and creepy, enchants and withholds.

My mom has just returned back home after flying over to spend some time with me in my new flat. We’ve had several lovely days together, and the warm and sunny weather all the while was like a special treat. I’d told her about my blog on the telephone but as she doesn’t have access to a computer she couldn’t really imagine what it would be like. One afternoon we sat down here and I showed it to her and translated some of the texts I’d written and the comments given too. She was astonished and delighted with what she saw and esp. marvelled at the possibility of being in touch with artists in other parts of the world. She finds most of my art strange and difficult and doesn’t know what to say, but she took photographs of my shelves which are stacked with my work and I take that as an indication of her being proud of what I choose to do after all.

This is a piece she likes and can relate to: a woman’s life in shoes. The shoes are made from very light, almost translucent off-white bone-coloured Japan paper which seems on the verge of disintegration while you handle it, and are moulded in the thinnest of layers on seven pairs of worn shoes which represent various stages in a woman’s life. Esp. the last pair in the series has resonance for me, as it was moulded on a pair given to me by a friend, Ruth, who was in her 80s at the time and is now sadly dead. The shoes had taken on the form of her old-woman’s-feet, bunions and all.
(Both pieces were made a couple of years ago.)


meabh said...

Shoes are the only clothing which permanently takes on the shape of the wearer. My Dad died last year and I asked my Mum if I could have his dancing shoes - very shiny (not patent just highly polished) thin soled leather shoes. I really wanted to have them - they are so resonant of him and of course he had a good time in them!

Catherine said...

hi marjojo,

thanks for correcting my timespan from centuries to millenia, language is definitely not my strong point. The hair brush so much remind me of a piece by Charley Peters, who also works with fairy tales. We worked with this young artist when I produced the first red shoes, hoodie and princess. You might find it interesting to have a look at her site.
You say you are translating for your mother when showing your work, what language does she speak, what nationality. I am originally from belgium and have kept my belgian nationality, because i feel I'll never be truly english inside. By the way showing your work to family is the hardest, there acceptance is personal but from experience they seem to be the hardest ones to accept this different way we look at the work, from inside out I suppose. I found that once I had been asked to do a commission and they could see that other people appreciated the skill of seeing and creating that we have they were more respectful of this talent of ours.

Marjojo said...

Catherine, thanks for pointing me towards Charley Peters' work, I've had a look, it is gorgeous and right up my alley.
Re: my mom - I was translating into German for her. And I know what you mean and it's not something I ever wanted, becoming fully English inside, I think looking at the world from two vantage points gives much richer and more interesting experiences. However I find that I love writing in English more than in German, maybe exactly because it's not my mother tongue - I've become quite comfortable in the use of the language, esp. when writing, but there remains so much unexplored territory andd that truly excites me. I love going backwards and forwards between dictionaries and explore the sometimes tiny gaps between meanings in the two languages.
Last: Family's reaction to one's work - it's a difficult subject. Partly I think they feel it's a hobby and not really a serious pursuit, and they find it strange that I feel so passionate about it, but it's also what you say - we have an entirely different way of looking at the world and it may seem like it sets us apart too much from family lore. Sometimes I feel like a child when I'm disappointed about their (perceived) lack of engagement with my artwork, still hoping for praise/affection when really I'm an adult and should be independent of it. But I guess to some extent we always stay the children of our parents.

redredday said...

hi Marjojo, that is so funny about the golden hair with the unimpressed girl. i could so imagine it. :).
also funny that you noted that this golden hair piece is creepy. that was exactly one of the things i was thinking when i first saw it awhile ago. i'm always amazed at how you're able to stand back and see your work like how the audience would see it. it is not like you are very detached and uninvolved with your work. well, i guess maybe it is because you are so involved and therefore, more in tuned and creating work that is in sync with what it is and how it is perceived? i think that must be it.

do you know that your paper tied pair of shoes is one of my favorite things in the world? i so wish i could see them all in person. i still cannot wrap my mind around how you're able to mould it and keep everything so well in tact. all those creases and holes for the laces to go through, too!

how could your mom not be proud??
i'm glad you got a chance to show her your blog and all. it is too bad she does not have internet connection at home right now to read this post.

i responded to the comment you left me on my blog but i also want to add here that it made me smile all day when i got it that day. :).

redredday said...

p.s. the golden hair piece is super creepy when you see in the large image. it is as if you are right behind her and certainly do not want her to turn around.

Marjojo said...

Dear Mien, your comments had me smile in turn! Re: writing about my work - I do need distance and usually don't write about my work until some time has passed. Have not been able to speak coherently about 'Red column' for example, it's still too new for me and I'm not quite clear yet about it's meaning(s). It's funny, isn't it, as artists, while we're in the process of working on something, we only fully inhabit it un- or subconsciously, if that, but I think that's also a good thing, not being entirely in control we can surprise ourselves with the end-product and what we perceive in it. And then there is that space that's needed for others to find something else in the work, something that connects to them. Usually writing a small text about a piece of work is the last step towards its completion for me, then I can move on to something else in my mind. Or maybe not quite the last step, that would be sending the work out into the world, or as it is called: exhibiting...
Regarding what you said about the creepiness of my hair-brush (literally) when seen full-size: That's something I love in the work, the fleeting notion that you're looking at the back of the head of a woman. I've also tried to present it differently, i.e. lay the brush and hair out on a table, but it doesn't have the same impact.
And last but not least: the work of yours that haunts me and that I crave having here is your crying girl against red background under lucky wishes. If only.