Fine Tuning My Works Voice

I have written about this work a few times and talked about it as well. For obvious reasons, I believe the education for girls is extremely important. I have even tried to sell this work in support Because I am Girl, with limited success.  The work is timely, now, with the me too and time’s up movements,  but I find my feelings toward the 11 bodies of work in this series is changing or maybe I have become introspective.

My heart breaks for the girls who are denied education due to culture, strife or war, but I also have to understand how the work relates to my story. I need to take full ownership of my work.

Quite a few pieces in the Disbound series are actually my story. 

Henigman Bruce – 3 Hail Mary’s, Sideways, Cast Encaustic, oil, books, needles, thread, false hair and found objects, 4″w x 16″h x 4.5″d

Work like 3 Hail Mary’s which speaks to being raised in a strict, (2 of my aunts were/are nuns), Catholic household only to be told at a very young age, after the fear of god was perfectly instilled, we are not going to church any more.

Fairy Tales and Tying Knots references the princess complex. They reference the dichotomy of my early life expectations to conform to a traditional woman’s role, when in fact, reality for me, was the need to be self-sufficient and support myself as an entrepreneur and business owner. 

Henigman Bruce – Twin Beds, Encaustic and string on books, Diptych – 7″h (18″ o/a) x 10″w x 2″d overall

A number of pieces are demonstrative of 50’s values. Like the Twin Beds used in early TV shows and movies, because babies came from storks, don’t you know.

I believe that I use books and objects to tell my story because my love of books was a gift from my mother and the reuse and repurpose of materials and objects was a gift from my father. My parents did not have a happy marriage, but these 2 gifts are happily married in my work. That makes me happy.

Veiled Metaphor, Cast Encaustic & found objects on books, 9″h x 4″w x 4.5″d

My work has progressed or better said, has repurposed itself. I did a series back in 2009 called All in My Head. It was a series of cast encaustic heads with found objects. I had a really hard time basing the work. To the point of giving up and letting the heads simply float off the wall. Last year, and I can’t quite put my finger on how this came about, but I started combining the books with the heads. By doing so I was able to finish each of their stories. I continue to work with the heads and it has been very gratifying to be able to give each of these personable pieces their true voice.

They say that all artists’ work references themself and I have been accused of being over the top with some of my references, especially my older work. I hope this work has found a more neutral grounding. By that I mean a place where to work can be appreciated as much for its aesthetic value as for it’s message. 

My work is full of visual puns, double entendre, symbolism and satire. It references the dichotomy of my early life expectations to conform to a traditional woman’s role, when in fact, reality for me, was the need to be self-sufficient and support myself as an entrepreneur and business owner. These contradictions allow me to expose my private self through veiled metaphor creating objects significant beyond function. The underlying message – the essence of my work – speaks to the roles and rights of girls and women.

 

She’s Come Undone

10 women – 10 self portraits

Gabriola Arts and Heritage Center
Opening reception Friday September 15, 7-9 PM. Show is up until end of day on Saturday Sept 16, 11 AM – 4 PM

I chose to submit this piece because, as they say, all art is self referential, and this is how I feel on many days.

Joking aside…

In this piece “I Can’t Hear You” I use fishing line as symbolism for the chaos of thoughts and how we can get tangled in them.

Please read about the exhibition in this interview with Sheila Norgate

Henigman Bruce – I Can’t Hear You, Cast Encaustic, book, fishing line, and found objects, 5.5″w x 11″h x 9″d
Henigman Bruce – I Can’t Hear You, Cast Encaustic, book, fishing line, and found objects, 5.5″w x 11″h x 9″d

How Quitting Art Helped my Art Career

Heels Encaustic Sculpture by Kim Bruce

Last winter (2016-17) I reached the end of my rope. I was dangling by a thread. Do I fall or do I quit? I decided to quit. We have all been there at one time or another. It gets frustrating, demoralizing and causes all sorts of angst to keep putting yourself out there only to be rejected over and over. I had been there before but this was different, really different, I was so done.

One of the straws was to get a solo show in the USA, but no artist’s fee to speak of. I CAN’T KEEP THROWING MONEY AT THIS!!!! The cost to crate, ship and travel there and back from Canada would be upwards of $3000. I was deflated, no wind, no sails, it was a good little gallery too, highly recommended. To complicate things there’s the current political climate in the states and I had to ask myself; do I really want to take a feminist exhibition to the deep south and travel there? I already boycotted my show in Seattle so I could stand firm with those affected by the travel ban, should I do that again?  

So, I made accepting this show contingent on getting a grant. There, I said to myself, done, the decision to travel will be made for me. I won’t get the grant, I live in Alberta where arts funding hard to get and the economy sucks.

I stopping trying for other reasons as well, one being inventory. I have so much inventory. Well over 200 pieces and no motivation to make more. I can find something else to do. I always wanted to bake. That’s what I will do. I will bake… cookies, and I will eat them all. And I did. This works for me. Baking is creative, it’s a process and there is something delectable at the end that most everyone will like.

But before I open my home bakery, I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision, so on the last day of the AFA’s deadline for acquisition I submitted my shoe project work. They turned it down once before, but I figured this would be the last time I will be able to submit that work because it will be over 5 years since creation and that is one of the criteria. I wanted them to reject me, I wanted affirmation on my decision to QUIT!

The other last ditch effort I made was to submit my Disbound show to 4 public galleries in southern Alberta. I have never been successful in getting a solo show here, up in Edmonton yes, but never around here. Again, I wanted to set myself up for failure. I wanted confirmation that no one wanted to show the work, because then I could tell myself that I gave it my best shot and it wasn’t for lack of trying. There DONE, where’s the flour?

Fast forward a few months you will find me happily watching the Food Network, cooking and baking up a storm. I love scones, and I learnt how to make them, life is good and does go on!

Then one morning I am checking my email and I see one from the AFA. So, I say to myself, they are emailing their rejection letters now. Good, let’s get this over with, only thing is, it wasn’t a rejection. In fact it was the first of 5 acceptance emails.

  • I got the grant to travel the show to Cecelia Coker Bell Gallery in South Carolina
  • The AFA bought my shoe project piece “Well Heeled”.
  • 3 out of the 4 public galleries that I applied to accepted the Disbound exhibition. AND to make things worse for quitting…
  • My work started to sell at my commercial gallery in Seattle.

WTF, I QUIT!!! Or so I thought. Maybe I am on sabbatical. Maybe I will go up to the studio and look around.

What Will Happen if I Quit Trying

Peace, too peaceful? Not really.
Quiet, too quiet? No.
Sad? a little.

Acceptance? Yes acceptance.
I am accepting of who I am. I know that sounds cliche, but we have cliches for a reason.  That is what I SHOULD, (did you just say should?) damn right I did. I SHOULD HAVE ACCEPTED WHO I AM YEARS AGO. But alas I had no idea I could. Besides I had no idea who is was. I was too busy placing expectations on myself.

Expectation to achieve
Expectation to earn
Expectation to succeed
Expectation to be worldly
Expectation to be smart
Expectation to be a role model
Expectation to be a leader
Expectation to be professional
Expectation to have nice things
Expectation to have a beautiful home
Expectation to have well designed, decorated, beautiful home

Damn, that’s a lot of expectations. No wonder I have tummy troubles and smoked. Yes, I was a smoker. I quit in 2013. Since then I have been forced to find a new way to live life. I did not go easily into that good night, more like being dragged, not kicking and screaming, but like a poor pup being dragged into the vet. I got depressed and super sensitive.

I was angry
I was sad
I was hungry
I was thirsty
I was lonely
I was getting fat
I found my anxiety

I kept going with the same expectations. After all I owned them. Only now I did not have my coping device. Only now I had only me and I got no where for a long time. I kept creating art, it was my therapy. Or so I thought.

Art was a place I could go to hide. Immerse myself. Avoid myself.
I created lots of work. So much art.

I have to show that art
I have to sell that art
I have to appreciate that art
I have to get a grant so I can show that work
I have to get representation so I can sell that work
I have to get lots of galleries so I can sell that work

I can not let all these have to’s interfere with what the work means to me. I can do that, I am a professional.

What if I don’t want to be a professional?
What if I want a simple life?
What if I didn’t really care about selling?
What if recognition didn’t really matter that much?
What if I let go?
What if I said enough already?

What would happen if I said that out loud? Made it public. Would it be real? Would I be making a commitment to quitting? What exactly am I quitting?
Am I quitting making art?
Am I withdrawing from the culture?
Is this what I want? Not to be an artist? Can an artist quit being an artist?

FOOTNOTE: I wrote this 6 months ago but only published it now because I have more to add. It’s all good. I’ll write about what happened in my next post.