This morning I gave a presentation to the first and second year students about my art practice and current work. I was delighted that so many students came along to listen, and ask me questions about my work and processes. One of the questions I was asked was ‘Why do you exhibit?’ The question came as a response to something I had talked about earlier, I spoke about my degree show work; Announcement, which posed questions around the relationships between personal revelations and public disclosure, public and private settings, autobiography and advertising. One of the questions I wanted the piece to provoke was ‘who do we make work for?’ The phrase ‘I’ve had a breakthrough’ is a selfish revelation therefore why present it to an audience? It’s these kinds of dilemma’s and discourse that I wanted to promote through the work.
When asked this question today however, I struggled to answer it. Why do I exhibit? I’ve been thinking about it for the rest of the day.
The desire to create and to make work, has always been present but what really drives my practice is the ability to make people listen. The power of the visual can far outweigh the spoken and written word; something I have been reading about recently in Seeing is believing: the politics of the visual (Rod Stoneman, 2013). For me, communicating visually is far easier than by by any other means, and I have the strong desire to be heard. As a woman and a single mother, I’ve been undermined and undervalued in many areas of my life and therefore by exhibiting my work I am able to highlight the issues which are important to me in a way that makes people pay attention.
Motherhood is highly undervalued in our society, as well as in art history/contemporary practices. Being a single mother even more so, not to mention the stereotype that comes along with it. This is my life, it affects me and therefore its what I make work about and why I want to exhibit…. the personal is political. I want my work to highlight and place value on the domestic processes and actions involved in mothering, to highlight the ever present gender gaps in both work and family life, to examine the female stereotypes we are still faced with everyday, and to force people to pay attention.
I guess it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons why we make work, and exhibit said work and so I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to remind myself why I do it.