There comes a time when a painting has to be done.
With most paintings, I could work and re-work the same piece for a lifetime. Painting over, filling in, adding and subtracting. But the nature of being an artist is that there are always more paintings to make. And so you choose to say goodbye, in a sense, in order to welcome new work.
So I have finished these paintings, though the work is still very much on-going. The work of thinking, of wrestling with the tensions. Living within them, without having to hide them or even fix them.
I entitled the body of work “Domestic Spaces” which is actually a play on words. Spaces meaning the physical spaces of our home, but also our social, economic, and racial spaces. And domestic, meaning the domains in which we live. But also, the act of domestication, which is a taming of that which is wild. An assertion of power.
The work is not about one space, but many. The work fits in the nooks and crannies of our ideas about ourselves, our neighbors, our homes and who belongs in them. It belongs in the spaces that don’t quite fit together, our pillars and lintels which are warped and splintered but for better or worse, still hold our weight.
The work has been a labor of celebration and self examination, both an act of tending to my life in quiet ways, and experiencing the acute sting of complicity. Thank you for walking with me through these paintings, as I explore my own home, what it means, and what it has been built on. They are excavations. Thanks for dusting off the ideas with me, to expose the structure underneath. I am grateful for you.
And for those of you who like the theory piece, I have included my professional artist statement below. It goes into a little more of the literary and post-colonial components of the work. Enjoy.
1 of or relating to the running of a home or to family relations
2 to tame and keep
These are every day items. Simple tools. An iron. A tea cup. Clothes hangers.
Domestic Spaces gathers these common objects and renders them lovely, painterly, beautiful. Set within the context of traditional still-life painting, these ordinary objects are noticed for their mundane beauty, their every day significance. Yet they are interrupted. The simple paintings of common life are infringed upon by natural imagery—thistles, leaves, and vague abstracted forms. The home space is disrupted, stalled.
Domestic Spaces is a working commentary on the rise of the “domestic arts.” Recent trends of urban homesteading, canning, gardening, and sewing continue to capture the imagination of young professionals such as myself, who in their spare time, participate in the nostalgia of a home-grown life. This nostalgia, while seemingly benign, has a complex social function. While the activities of gardening, DIY projects and returning to simplicity are honorable, there lies a growing belief that such a lifestyle is an indicator of social responsibility and virtue. These “virtues” however, are class specific and often racialized, as they depend on economic wealth and leisure. The lifestyle of “simplicity” must be undergirded by education, free time, and monetary access, thus relegating it to the privileged. The return to the domestic arts, in its most insidious form, can function as a kind of social violence as the elite lay claim to the ‘proper form of humanity,’ a form which is only accessible to the upper class.
Domestic Spaces is a visual acknowledgment of this dynamic. A pictoral homage to Maralynn Robinson’s Housekeeping, it explores how the home is interrupted by the wild, blurring the boundaries of home and land, in connection to the privileged/oppressed. A subtle palette and negative space point to the quiet appeal of the home, while the vague natural imagery leaves the viewer slightly unsettled. The work further explores the connection between domesticity and colonialization through the tension of where the home ends and the land begins. The relationship between the object and its intruding forms is a power dynamic. This tension indexes the historical relationship between ordering of the feminine domestic space and its counterpart of masculine colonialization. A visual reference to the work of post-colonial theorist Anne McClintock, Domestic Spaces examines how the relationship of domesticity/colonialism persists today in a current incarnation. The work is an interrogation of the home space as both celebration and weaponry. It vacillates between an acknowledgment of simple beauty, and an expression of elite power. It is simultaneously comforting and unsettling. Domestic Spaces investigates both the wholesome and dangerous dynamic of the domestic arts as an exploration of my own precarious inability to locate myself rightly within them.