I've always been interested in what goes on inside the home. As a young child, I watched as my Mom's cheerful public persona quickly dissolved into depression and rage behind closed doors. Shaped by societal pressures and expectations, she was seduced into to American Dream only to discover it wasn't for her. The fantasy of domestic bliss came to a crashing end when my parents divorced and I was made to clean houses at a young age to bring in extra money.
My recent series, "Milk, Eggs & Tranquilizers," "Invisible Wallpaper," and "Fantasy Wives/Reality Lives" focus on female identity. I've depicted the 1950's era, emphasizing imagery of "female perfection" and domestic tranquility. By portraying women as distraught housewives, decorative wallpaper, and sex objects, my work investigates themes of isolation, domestic burnout and feeling invisible.
The Seasons of Sex
Sex in it's different seasons, different eras, with different significance, different meanings. In “Party Favors,” the woman is dominant, on top, in charge. It's her birthday and she's exercising her rights, despite the passing year to be in control and take her pleasure. But is all really well? Who's the figure at the glass door or window? His hands are up in surprise at what he's seeing or maybe he's trying to get her attention. But he is powerless, possibly someone in her mind, or from her past. Dad? A former lover, she wants to punish, or just her own conscience, being held off, pushed to the background while she engages in activities of the body? The man beneath her is faceless, featureless, just a body for her to use, but wait, is it a man at all? Are those high-heel shoes on her dominated lover? And is the woman's face itself one of pleasure? She is engaged in the season of sex, the time of life to take part exert or to dominate but we aren't sure if she's enjoying or simply going through the motions.
In “Birthday Surprise,” sex is no longer hers. She's done the womanly thing and had a baby, but is being left behind. "Sex" has moved to her progeny, belongs now to her son, who has turned his back on her and her efforts to be the loving mother and throw him a party. To surprise him. To keep him hers. (Maybe even to keep him a child.) Now sex is a slap in the face, a belittlement. He might still be interested in his mother but far more interested in his partner in the bed. Sex is now the stuff of abandonment, the stuff of "lust." The man in the window has now been replaced by a painting on the wall, but the painting doesn't belong to her. The picture is her son's, reflecting his own interests and fantasies. But is it a painting at all, or is it an item of carnality? A thing of mockery, of her own past and her son's present. And where is her husband? Is that him in the background, totally withdrawn from her current life and reality, his face buried behind a newspaper, and his body of no interest to her, just vessel that eats and sleeps and craps? Sex is a humiliation now, as her child is the one engaging in the act while at the same time, leaving her behind.
In “The Therapist,” romance and affection, physical pleasure and confidence itself is a thing of the past. The unhappy masked man can do little more than absent-mindedly play with her hair. But is it playing or is it boredom? Or even beyond boredom, a thing of control? The hair itself, a dog leash or the reins of a horse? Is he unhappy, or is he unhappy with her? Perhaps he's sitting in judgement, frowning at something she has said or done. Her body position tells us all we need to know, She's not even standing any more, reduced to a thing that crawls, drags herself along the ground like Christina in a Wyeth painting. Sex no longer fits into the equation at all, something in the background, off to one side, the thing of other people. The painting in the background reflects both past and present as well as a possible future; flowers in a milk bottle in a kitchen to suggest a brave attempt at beauty, domesticity, normalcy, yet somehow sad and futile. The beginnings of a cake; eggs in a bowl (her eggs? that gave life to her son (but where is he now?), the cake, a fruitless attempt at motherly-control, at motherly-love, but now abandoned. Her son is gone. She's floating away, rising up, up up, away from this empty domesticity like Alice floating through the looking glass, or is it the exact opposite? A lady imagining the ultimate act of despair? She sprawls on the floor, still able to keep herself upright, (is she in fact pushing herself up? About to rise?) her past her present and the woman's possible future are all arrayed around her. The choice is hers.