I have always known that I am an artist who values emotional integrity in my own work and others.
There was an event this week that called into question whether that can go too far. I went off on one, had a sweary tantrum aimed at a poor man who had nothing to do with what was going on either in the room or in my head. I have since apologised, and will do so again when I see him personally.
A piece of my work was handled in a way in which damage might have occurred. There’s a small mark, invisible to anyone but me, it will wash out. Catastrophe averted. Upon deeper thought and analysis I realised that said potential damage was more to do with my emotional attachment to the work and what it means to me, in its concept, and in its materiality.
The potential for damage felt like a brutal act. I drove home, feeling very on edge, so much so I pulled into a lay-by to get a grip. I stroked these pieces as if I was comforting a child, making her feel better. I had no hope of explaining these actions to anyone else in the moment. We are better now, but I feel it a cautionary tale, I will leave more explicit instructions next time.
I have been known to call the “nine women” bras “my girls”, and the “are you listening?” pieces using children’s clothes ” my babies”. I thought this was a joke. Clearly it’s not. It’s very serious. They are looked after, loved and cared for, stroked, twirled, talked to. Yes… Talked to.
The piece in question is a poor orphan of a thing, scrappy fabric fashioned into makeshift garments. The stitching is the only thing holding it in shape, take out even a quarter of the stitches and they would disintegrate. I don’t expect people to know this, so I should tell them. I should be more explicit and not expect people to see them as I do. I should tell people, even if they think I’ve lost the plot, that this is a REAL CHILD, and should be treated as such.
My attitudes towards children are a huge part of my work. Not just my own children, and me as a child, and maybe even my parents as children… Deep waters… But children in our society, how the system is letting them down. The guilt I discovered I STILL feel at deserting them and leaving my school job. How we treat our children and those around us shows us up as human, either at our worst or our best…
My work then… My relationship with these pieces, guided by the personality and history of a garment, or piece of fabric, it has a reality difficult to explain. I don’t know that I’ve done it here really. But I have started to think more deeply. So the work I do now will be informed by that realisation of a relationship to childhood, it’s brutality, and beauty.
This work, has no words. I’ve never written a song about this. I don’t know that I ever will. How I feel about this is more than words. That’s why I need to make the work.