‘Taboo is something we are not ready for’
– “The Rehearsal,” Eleanor Catton
Willing (Basement Captives)
It’s no secret that I make art about my life. All of it – the large parts and the small. The model in one of my works could be me in a guise, someone very close to me, and/or simply a placeholder for a larger idea (all women, all men, The Goddess, etc).
But in the context of this show, you’re no doubt curious about it’s “other-than-polite” works. You have part of the answer – I paint about my life, and so the question emerges: Why are there people in my basement? In various levels of dress, undress, and costume? Why are many of them tied up? Is that a whip? And why would you allow people to see the artwork made in reaction to…this? I’m sure you’d rather have the answer to that, before any explanation of how I apply paint, or why I use ink. I don’t blame you, as it’s the first thing I’d want to know, as well. My actual thought process behind putting on this show, with its risky subject matter, begins with this:
I have chosen not to find shame in what I explore.
I refuse to find shame in my art, my sexuality, or in any taboo subject that doesn’t cause any harm. It took a long time to arrive at this point in my life, having grown up in Florida, raised in a very conservative, judgmental culture, where girls were either sluts or cold fish, where any unmarried woman, living alone, would be introduced with a disclaimer, insisting that she ‘wasn’t a lesbian,’ and despite the Christian milieu, a divorced woman would still receive more respect than one who never married. I didn’t even notice anything wrong, or even strange about this view until I left. Afterwards, It took over a decade for me to be comfortable enough to explore some of the things about which I felt ashamed. I have decided not to find shame in what I do with consenting adults, nor in making art about what I find exciting, because it is much less harmful than some of the more socially acceptable ways we treat fellow humans.
Because I refuse to be ashamed of who and what I am, it makes perfect sense for me to make art about my whole life – including what I do in the bedroom, or basement. If there is no shame in creating the work, there should be no shame in sharing it. Those of us who make art tend to be inclined to share it with others. Ideally, it would inspire the viewer to make a purchase, which itself would encourage and aid the artist in creating more art, but it’s always satisfying when the work affects someone to the degree that they’re driven to share their impression of it, or the experiences informing their impression with me.
I realize my work isn’t for everyone. I don’t want to force anything on anyone who isn’t ready. As for those willing to explore something they previously thought of as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ – I want to give permission to look. I want to continue to do what people in the creative class can – to build bridges between groups of people, to bring additional layers of the world to those who can’t be artists, and to normalize harmless subjects that are considered taboo. After all, sometimes a whip is just a whip. – Jeanine 2017