Art & Development

Sharon Kivland and the Whitworth’s Tuesday Talks

Britain and France-based artist Sharon Kivland spoke at the Whitworth Art Gallery’s Tuesday Talk lecture series today. She’s is a fierce intellect and flawless speaker with broad experiences to draw from as a researcher, curator and artist. Her practice is deep and vast, spanning psychoanalysis, language, typography and French revolutionary history. She characterizes her practice as one of precision, intellectual pretensions, and irony.

I really like Sharon Kivland’s Mon Abecedaire, a series of handkerchiefs embroidered with an alphabet of the artist’s personal flaws. The artist’s statement is really great too — light exposition conveying loads of irony. For pics and the statement, visit, click on exhibitions and scroll down.

I found Kivland’s broad experience and lecturing skill impressive and intimidating. Combined with other factors (low proportion of men in attendance, the fact that Kivland is the only female lecturer in the five-part series, and my observations of the local MA programs who’ve visited my studio — overwhelmingly female with only one or two men (sometimes including the TA), per class of 10+ students), I left with a nagging feeling about how much harder women have to work to gain respect and opportunities in the art world.


Going to “the manly place to be”

To get ready for Galleon Trade: Ship Launch, I went shopping for Kleen Sweep, a moss-like powder that’s great for trapping harmful dusts on the ground. It’s really useful after sanding gallery walls. So I headed to the hardware store nicknamed “the manly place to be” in an old rock ditty.

In the past, I’ve heard arguments that men should have “man spaces.” I believe that men and women would greatly benefit if men had reflective, discursive spaces to consider manhood and the role of men in struggles for equality. Unfortunately, most contemporary male-centric spaces–in my experience, fight- and motor-sports arenas–function as spaces for exhibiting the stereotypical male qualities that A.O. Scott brilliantly contextualized within a culture of consumption and sexual entitlement.

Usually, I’m pretty fond of hardware stores—bigger quantities, competitive prices, more open-ended materials. They’re like interesting cousins from out of town to the sibling art stores, whose idiosyncracies are too familiar to excuse.

But sometimes I’ll be reminded of hardware stores’ gendered context. (There’s no better place to witness the different treatment you get in a skirt instead of jeans than my neighborhood Ace.)

My Kleen Sweep quest wasn’t going well, so I asked a gentlemanly sales associate for assistance. Perfectly politely, he pointed me towards the broom aisle. I scanned the products — no Kleen Sweep. I went back for more help, and the guy ‘fessed up: he knew what Kleen Sweep was, he just assumed I meant Swiffers…. As in the TV ad with a housewife cleaning and rocking out to the debased Devo tune, “Swiff it up.”

Interestingly, more female employees and a housewares section does not correlate to a more female-friendly experience. My new favorite hardware store, a builder’s supplier where the parking lot is filled with pick-up trucks, has the best service and products (like Kleen Sweep) in stock.

Research, Values

Values and Everyday Heroism, via Movie Review

A minute for a movie review. A+ for writing, and interesting morsels on values and everyday heroism.

Pre-justification #1: The focus of this blog is art, but artists, curators and critics can be concerned with culture at large.

Pre-justification #2: Movie reviews can be useful examples of beautifully concise, insightful writing. See David Denby of the New Yorker Magazine.

I don’t know which offense is more pervasive and exasperating: the issue of the portrayal of women and men in movies, or our age of irony and immaturity. Below, A.O. Scott elegantly sums up big ideas in a few sentences, in a movie review of “Knocked Up.”

“…The absence of a credible model of male adulthood is clearly one of the forces trapping Ben and his friends in their state of blithe immaturity.
Mr. Apatow’s critique of contemporary mores is easy to miss — it is obscured as much by geniality as by profanity — but it is nonetheless severe and directed at the young men who make up the core of this film’s likely audience. The culture of sexual entitlement and compulsive consumption encourages men to remain boys, for whom women serve as bedmates and babysitters. Resistance requires the kind of quixotic heroism Steve Carell showed in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” or a life-changing accident, like Alison’s serendipitous pregnancy….”

Bye-Bye, Bong. Hello, Baby.
June 1, 2007
New York Times

I have always resented how male bonding often privileges dumbed-down culture, and the permission that males seem to have in associating women with growing up, the loss of innocence and by extension, evil. Look closely and you’ll find many examples in popular culture–music (including rap and rock), movies, comics, etc. One can find similar attitudes in contemporary art — art by men-boys for men-boys, and the women who don’t mind.