Sunday, 30 March 2008
The artist’s dress
The handlebar dress had been nagging away at me, it never felt quite right and I wish I hadn’t posted it. Took it out again a couple of weeks ago and unravelled parts of the sleeves and about half of the skirt. For a moment I had the impulse to go on and undo it completely but then decided to try one more thing and here it is. The underside of the sleeves are sewn to the skirt’s hem. This dress-shape has been on my mind for a while, it crops up again and again in tiny drawings all through my sketchbook, but I’ve had reservations about making it (and posting it). It seems it needed to be done. And now reflected about.
I’ve been thinking about myself as an artist, as usually having a bit of a crisis about it, and wonder if this dress may be about how I feel as an artist. The kind of work I make is not abstract, it is heavily anchored in being and feeling, in being embodied, being a woman. For me the artist’s work cannot be done without questioning aspects of oneself. It means that I am laying myself open, to myself first of all, but also to anybody who looks at the work and engages with it.
Inhabiting this dress means being locked in that gesture (until 'she' slips out of the dress), every movement of her arms has an impact on the degree to which she conceals/reveals herself. Being an artist is what I consider best about myself but it is not a clear-cut thing, its aspects pull in opposite directions: there is the urge to tug away at curtains, to worry wounds, to reveal and display, and vulnerability, even shame about doing just that and maybe doing it badly. Also fear and uncertainty about what one brings to light, as that is by no means obvious when starting the work.
This dress has gone through so many shapes (and even this text has gone through umpteen mutations, its slant changing, its mood, its content). This is its ultimate shape and as a mark of finality I have washed it. In the morning, when I decided to post the dress, I had no clear idea what concerns it would bring up for me beyond what made me do the work in the first place - they came out in the writing. More questions buzz in my head: Do I see the artist as a child? (No, but…) Is my work too self-referential? (Maybe, but…) To what extent can one control how one’s work is read and is that an issue that the artist should consider? How does one cope with criticism or the lack of interest? And fundamentally, for myself: is it all worth the effort? There's more, there's always more, but I'm too tired now.
Fittingly I have started crocheting a mask, knowing full well it will conceal as much as it will reveal.
Dimensions: 46 x 68 cm (incl. coathanger)