Welcome to the first entry of sm[art]! As a visually-focused person (I'm the art director here at Bitch), I decided it was high time to devote a special spot to visual arts. I hope to spotlight the works of artists of all kinds, who have some feminist, social or political themes in their work.
I do want to clarify one thing from the start—I'm not a writer—I'm a designer, art lover and sporadic reader. The reason I want to disclose this up front, is because, frankly, I'm a little nervous about authoring a blog. That said, I also hope that the this particular Bitch blog will be heavier on the images than on the words.
Some of you might recognize the name of the blog, as it's shared with the name of our annual art auction and fundraiser, sm[art]. The two are closely linked in my mind. Both serve as a way to fuse the analysis and intellect of the magazine, with visual art. Having this space on the web is particularly exciting, because as you know if you've read Bitch, we don't get to show imagery in full color. We now have a platform to do so! In addition to posting about art that I like (or possibly hate?), I'll include updates about our upcoming sm[art] auction/benefit, which falls on October 25th at Portland's WorkSound Gallery.
Please feel free to send any tips you might have to: [email protected], but I'd rather see you join in the conversation about the art by commenting more than anything else!
So without further delay, I'd like to share the work of Portland-based photographer, Alicia J. Rose. I'd seen her commercial work for the Portland Ballet, various bands (most notably The Decemberists) and her portraits of the proprietors of the ever-popular restaurant Beast. When I went to her website, I also discovered her fine art Fairytale series, which really captured my interest.
Rose uses fairytales like Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Little Red Riding Hood as a starting point for her series and then challenges the traditional gender dynamics within the tales. Below are some questions I asked Alicia about the work and future projects.
What inspired the series?
I've been in this mode in the last couple of years to delve headfirst into my childhood fantasies and memories in order to heal some old wounds and answer some dark questions for myself. Fairytales was directly inspired by a time in my life around the age of 10 when my family was breaking down/up. I was a little girl who at one moment seemed to have a fairly normal life...but through a series of poor judgement calls, my family lost everything, including its balance, and I suffered some pretty major emotional abuse. It left me feeling lost, confused and way too grown up for my age. I sort of crawled inside my imagination at that time and found solace in fairy tales, doll house dramas, super-heroines, basically anything that offered an escape from my miserable pre-adolescence. In Fairytales, the little girl that I chose to play/portray Snow White is the same age I was at that time, and a good friend of mine with less dramatic, but nonetheless similar circumstances surrounding her own childhood. That point of view was essential for me to express.
How did you decide which characters would bend their traditional genders? Why?
As a child and throughout my life, the people who have influenced me have always been those willing to challenge themselves and society by staying true to themselves. Some of my earliest influences are artists that lived beyond the fear of bigotry, and focused on their creativity full force, regardless of sexual preference. When I was casting Fairytales, I thought it would be an additional challenge for myself and the viewer to modify the classic bent of the stories into an exploration of gender and sexuality. I am pretty ensconced in the queer community in Portland, and as soon as I had the idea for hte series, I knew Lee Kyle had to be my Queen, Witch and Wolf, and I knew the "Seven Deadly Drag Queens" from the scene and performances i had done with queer performance troupe Sissyboy. Hansel and Gretel were played by my good friends Ericka and Jeffrey - who are both gay, and best friends, and had never kissed before i asked them to for the project. But they knew that was part of the deal. For me, there was nothing more personally and societally provocative than crossing that line, and asking those questions. The full circle aspect of man and woman, gay and lesbian, best friends, brother and sister, creature comforts...
What are you working on now?
Right now, I'm mostly working on building my portfolio and getting some bigger new projects on the board, as well as working on killer projects as they turn up. I'm always shooting bands—I just did pix for Lackthereof, Oh Darling, Tu Fawning and so many others. I just finished my 16 portrait 'Who's Your Dancer' series for the Oregon Ballet Theatre, and a project for PICA/Third Angle Music Ensemble called City Dance. I'm in planning stages for another bout of Fairytales....Anything worthy I can get my hands on really...i LOVE taking pictures. Creating magic out of the mundane is my favorite jam. I love to create art that compels me and the viewer to want to lick it. Like candy. But with heart. I'm serious....
Do you show your fine art photos? If so, where?
Yes. I showed Fairytales at Grass Hut Gallery in Portland. I will probably do another installment of Fairytales there in 2009. My general print sales are handled by Heidi McBride Gallery in Portland. I have my eye on a couple fancy pants galleries that I would like to show at in LA and NYC. I have an ongoing fantasy of showing my work at Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany.
Which artists, politics or ideas do you take most inspiration from?
I still listen to Brian Eno's "Another Green World" almost weekly. He is definitely one of my heroes. Kate Bush's "The Dreaming" pretty much helped me come out of the closet as a musician/artist. Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Sally Mann and early Annie Leibovitz on the photo side of things. On the idea tip—I am very much committed to the idea of being true and honest with myself and the choices and art that I make. I love a challenge, to challenge others and to chill the F out and enjoy life as often as possible (when I'm not being a workaholic, that is).