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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Act 3, Scene 6

The narrative began with Act 1, scene 1 on April 10, 2013.
To access all scenes, scroll to blog archive at the bottom of the page.

Yeah. I think that really, it's just about age and maturity. Of course there'll always be young artists who know zero about anything that's not in their own heads. Isn't that part of being young and full of yourself? Do you remember your high school art classes? Some kids were soooo intense! All those hormones and that energy and the feeling that absolutely everything that happened to you was of such critical importance – it all got poured into whatever was going on in art class. I remember listening as kids explained to the teacher how this little swirl of blue meant death, and that splotch of green meant hope, and of course the big thing in the middle was LOVE! Sometimes I wonder just how those teachers could be so patient and respectful; it was nearly all total crap, but very important to the kid who made it.

It's not until you start to look around, and admit to yourself that you might actually learn something from someone else, even if they are older – that's when you begin to think that history might not be poison after all.

Whiten (laughing)
Bingo! That's exactly right. And yes, I do remember hearing those oh-so-deep discussions in art class. Wow. Weren't those feelings overwhelming? I think I'm much happier now than I was at that age. That was tough ... for almost everyone, I suppose. Then again, there weren't too many female-artist role models for me when I began to dig my heals in as a woman artist, and that was tough too. Or exciting. Yes, it was exciting to think that maybe you were breaking new ground. You know, this is a bit of a digression, but I feel very proud of my own generation. The 60s, hippies, feminism, racial equality, sexual diversity – a lot of the tolerance that we take for granted today started with people of my generation. Anything I felt strongly about became fair territory for an artist ... even a woman artist! Imagine doing what I did in some of today's repressive societies in other parts of the world – strapping men into these contraptions that looked like torture apparatuses! Unbelievable, when I think of it now. We are so lucky to live in such a free country, and too often we take it all for granted. Imagine doing what you do in those countries! No way at all.

Structure #8 (casting process - detail 2 of 3) 
© Colette Whiten

Structure #7 (casting process) 
© Colette Whiten

Of course by the early seventies when I began to have some success, other women had already elbowed their way into what was then pretty much a boys' club. Helen Frankenthaler comes to mind, and she did it ten or twenty years before anyone took notice of me. Too bad she's not here. She was one tough cookie I think.

But a lot of people are still a bit undecided about her, don't you think? You can't argue with the fact that she challenged men on their own turf, but ... I don't know. Her work wasn't about women ... not the way that your work and mine is anyway. And when she came down against arts grants for individual artists in the States ... don't you think that was kinda reactionary? I mean, Mapplethorpe? C'mon. How could she be dismissive of Mapplethorpe? She wrote that position paper in '89 I think. AIDS would have been top of mind for everyone, I guess. I wonder ... well, who knows? Just makes you wonder about her tolerance, her openness to all those 60s changes you were talking about. Maybe I'm not being fair.

Anyway, to get back to women and art, your stuff must have opened doors for all kinds of women. You know, legitimizing the way you did the value of all women's art, including all of what people once considered domestic craft, and somehow therefore less valid. What a crock. I think your art is, what would I call it? ... permission giving! That's it. It gives us permission to look at what it is to be female ... all of what that entails, pretty and not so pretty.

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Historically accurate anecdotes are especially welcome.