Nailed It!

This post is dedicated to everyone who ever hoped that a photo shoot with a skilled photographer would make them feel beautiful once and for all.

Specifically, this is for people like me: I hoped that I would look like a sultry and inspired art diva but alas my worst fears were confirmed because I look more like a cartoon weasel.

Duke Weaselton to be specific. I have never watched this movie. I simply googled “cartoon weasel with bulgy eyes” and easily found one that looked exactly like me explaining my visual art.

The whole experience reminds me of the baking show “Nailed It” which is a beautiful homage to the human descent from aesthetic ambition to abject failure. It’s just a lot of home bakers trying to make impossibly perfect desserts they have never attempted before.

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Which is what I did. I tried to take the most beautiful, iconic images and I don’t even regularly take selfies. I don’t know how to arrange my facial features to look pleasing. I do have a lot to say though. And apparently flexing all of my facial muscles at the same time gives me the feeling that I am really expressing something succinctly.

I then made the double mistake of showing these pictures to some friends. And they weren’t really any more sensitive than the judges on “Nailed It” who delight in reminding the home bakers of how far they’ve fallen from the goal.

My first friend texted me: “You look like an adjunct art history professor at a community college.” Ouch. The second friend said: “You look like you’re teaching children about cartoons.” Ouch. Remember I was going for Frida Kahlo.

It’s ok though. I can’t honestly say that I mind the failure. The gap between what I wanted to look like and what I am reveals a lot. Maybe I will take my sister’s advice and really lean into the “Duke Weaselton” in me, like every time on the third date I resolve so hard to be nice and meek and I can’t help it I just end up Duke Weaseltoning all over again.

In Her Studio

For the past seven months I have been renting a small art studio. I got a grant and a space just for my art. I have never had either of these things. It is just starting to feel real. For the first several months I couldn’t believe it. I would stop by and gently peek into my studio all dark and quiet just to make sure it was there, whisper hi to the room and then leave.

I was shocked that I could leave it as messy as I wanted and it was totally ok. I articulated to myself this truth: no one can come in unless I want them to. It became a revelatory mantra.

For little girl me who grew up in a house with siblings and no door on her room this is an unprecedented boon. She’s shocked.

How should I even behave in such a space? Should I pee in buckets and leave my bloody underwear willy nilly on the floor for my whole menstrual cycle? I did. They got violent and crusty and defiant. Should I hang up those large drawings of men being devoured by their own penises that I’ve been hiding? Yes. And when someone came to help me with some carpentry I didn’t even explain them to him. I didn’t even mention them! Ha! What freedom.

I still struggled to feel real about it all. When asked I would say: “I guess I have a studio. I might.” So I decided to have a photo shoot because maybe if I looked at an image of myself in my studio it would finally exist and land firmly in reality. I started collecting these images and feeling many feelings. I had never seen very many photographs of women at work making visual art. It stirred up a great deal in me, among the initial sadness of realizing I had lived so long without ever seeing them.

 

In these images I see a woman who does not care about the gaze of the photographer, doesn’t give a shit about who is looking or what they think. Her gaze, her attention is on the image she is creating or the image she is gestating internally as she gazes into the distance. Her work is her focus. Her work is a huge and messy thing, a thing that takes up all the space on the floor, all the space on the walls. Her work is not a pretty reflection of the world: in its abstractness it is ponderous and uncooperative, it is not easy to explain and resolve.

While being the subject of the photograph she is undeniably the creator and perceiver of the world and her interpretation of it. In this way she is powerful as she begrudgingly, graciously, distractedly assents to have her picture taken. But she’s not going to do anything special for it.

She does not look happy, she looks in process. She looks intentional and full of opinions. She looks wrinkled and serious. She looks happy.

Artists pictured here include: Mary Abbott, Perle Fine,Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe, and Wangechi Mutu