One artist whose work is closely related to mine is Stephanie Stalvey, another woman exploring sexuality and sexual healing from the perspective of having been a grown up in the American Evangelical church purity culture and is using her artwork to prompt conversations and healing. She’s currently working on a project titled “Pure” about her experiences navigating dating and sexuality as a woman in her early 20’s with flashbacks and anecdotes from her childhood in the church. Her work differs from mine in that she is using her life as a narrative structure and focuses on the lived outer experience of these things. As for myself, I didn’t even begin dating at all until I was well into my twenties and at 28 have still not had experience with dating consistently.
My work takes place in the surreal landscape of my own inner-life and is far more abstract in its execution. In some ways I prefer it this way so that others can enter the dreams with more of themselves. Stephanie Stalvey, Frida Kahlo, and I all use our own stories and emotional realities to dictate the subject matter, but in doing so make it both personal, but also intensely relatable in ways that are deeper than anything speaking generally can do.
For instance, even though Stalvey’s comic details her dating relationship with her boyfriend, I still find her fears and desires relatable. I didn’t need a boyfriend to be warned directly or indirectly about how dangerous my body was. A woman need not come from an American Evangelical church to feel like she’s a danger to herself and others by simply existing in her body. Many cultures fear women’s sexuality, and work to stifle or destroy them. Kahlo's own pastiche of imagery and style make sense to me and are highly relatable even though our experiences and even our pain are completely different. Kahlo was particularly adept at depicting her inner and outer worlds as a blended, bizarre reality.
Alexandra Levasseur is another female artist who blends the body and landscape into a fantastical realm of imagery that does not play by consistent rules of logic. She is more interested in the relationship of the female body to the natural world, but her mythological spaces and loose, colorful paintings feel heavily related to my own. I strive to achieve a similar ability to paint with such looseness and freedom. I often feel my mark-making is either too tight or completely unbound, and I want to work to find a consistent technique as Levasseur has. Her compositions are also well-balanced, having clear subjects in these realms that do not simply fall away, but are equally strange and engaging.
There is something about being a woman that automatically categorizes your experience and body as something that others are looking at, a performance. Living in a performative existence, for me, has made life feel more akin to a stage-play where I have to know what my part is before I go on. This theatricality, I think, is highly relatable to anyone who lives existence well in the view of others. I’m exploring these “roles” as costumes, archetypes, in order to better understand how they inform my own life.
In terms of theatricality and melodrama, Movie Poster and Pulp novel artists have also been a fantastically rich well to draw from creatively. In particular Bob Peak, whom I encountered as a child through his work on the Camelot film poster and was hugely prolific in the 70's and 80's as been a source of compositional inspiration. I aspire to the way he collages vignettes and portraits together into one cohesive artwork that is visually rich both on the whole and in each corner. I also appreciate his lack of fear for color and a bit of drama.