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