My practice has been very influenced by tribal arts, applied arts and children’s art this year and by the female artists who share these influences such as Betty Woodman, Katherine Bernhardt, Polly Apfelbaum, Caroline Achaintre and Annabel Dover.
I feel connected in a profound way to the processes used in tribal arts and applied arts as I have mentioned in previous blogs but recently I have been able to identify the root of this connection and it’s about finding a female identity as an artist and a sense of belonging. So much of art rhetoric focuses on pioneering notions and uniqueness, but actually I believe that as people in the world right now what we are really looking for is connection with others and something to cling to.
While researching Kitsch I discovered that whilst undermining elitist power structures through its unmeaning mockery of highbrow culture it also helped to ground us as individuals by reminding us of our own flaws and the inherent imperfections of humankind. The repetition, sameness, cheapness of kitsch is strangely comforting; its lack of creativity anchors us in a world where we are overwhelmed by choice and lack of limits. In the same way that we are searching for a sense of connectedness I believe we are suffering from too many choices and too much pressure to be creative, to show our personality through our style etc.
In my opinion the way in which Kitsch presents an alternative to high brow elitist culture and power, the applied arts, tribal art and outsider art in general presents an alternative to a male centered art world.
“…The conceptual liberation that feminism has fostered culturally allows me to address the notion of fragmentation, long associated as a negative aspect of female identity, as a positive quality that is not specifically feminine, but an aspect of our contemporary cultural condition. By exploiting such discriminatory and totalizing concepts, I think of myself as continuing the process of demystifying the idealization of values, such as the heroic, the aggressive, the optical, and the rational, that used to be associated with the masculine. From this perspective, I use my work to metaphorically promote such non-heroic themes as the decorative, beauty, fluidity, diversity, and so on.” (Kaneda, S.)
This quote by the artist Shirley Kaneda is interesting as she highlights qualities in art making that are perceived as specifically feminine and relates them to a more generalized contemporary condition. Therefore, what is considered to be ‘feminine’ (the non-heroic, domestic, playful, decorative, diverse etc.) could be aligned with other socially marginalized groups, which include an ever expanding proportion of the world’s population. So by promoting the feminine as opposed to the masculine, there may be room to promote a more universal shift in a dominant paradigm that does is not inclusive to all.