Friday, November 21, 2014

Joan Marie Kelly

Joan posted her Curatorial Statement By Sarah Schuster
EXHIBITION: The Kotha THE Akhara: Historical Indian Archetypes of Masculinity and Femininity
Paintings by Artist: Joan Marie Kelly

My interest in Joan Marie Kelly’s artwork began several years ago when an acquaintance of mine introduced me to her painting and the project she was doing with the sex workers in Kolkata. Her doggedness to paint perceptually where others refused to go seemed radical within the genre of contemporary representational painting. A multitude of artists In Cinema, New Media, Community-based and Grassroots artistic practices cross and blur the cultural boundaries of agency and power, but I had never seen a perceptual painter who was, in her own way, undertaking this kind of unraveling. Outside of a handful of contemporary mural painters such as Judy Baca, and the early portraits of Alice Neel I was at a loss as to who was doing work like this in the arena of traditional oil painting. I began to wonder why this practice might have become taboo given the many instances of such work in the history of Western art. 

The feminist critique of patriarchal culture, and its strong hold on Western painting has been extremely important and influential to me as a woman painter, but in thinking about Joan’s work I began to think of the ongoing repercussions of defining the gaze as male. What is the ongoing impact of recognizing that the traditional languages of patriarchy, such as those championed and ensconced in western figure painting, inevitably reproduce the objectification of the subject and position the subject of the painter’s attention as both an object and as the other. Is painting from the figure or model about the artist’s projection of their reality onto the sitter? I had begun reading the Israeli born philosopher, analyst and artist Bracha Ettinger. Her work impacted the French feminist movement, and she spoke of the ‘matrixial’ gaze to describe a post-conceptual practice that reshapes the legacies of the technologies of surveillance and documentation as a pathway towards a future where acceptance of the burden of sharing, transforming and processing trauma is possible. 

Working with and from marginalized groups of people is very problematic because of the ingrained hierarchies of power but as Joan has said to me, “The risks are worth it to me when faced with the option of doing something rather then doing nothing at all.” I curated this exhibition to put it forward as a possible option for change and transformation, and to invite us to consider that the gaze may also be a means of absorption, and coming to know.

No comments: