I want people to remember me for pushing their buttons, that I made them think, and impacted them on some level to question their standard belief system. Change your ideas; change your life. Happiness is a choice.
…I wish I could say that I was concerned about whether people thought I was a nice person, but alas, that seems to be a very uninteresting aspiration. I want people to remember me for pushing their buttons, that I made them think, and impacted them on some level to question their standard belief system. I want them to say that I inspired them to want better things for themselves and for society.
WHAT IS ANY A LIFE QUESTION FOR WHICH IT IS DIFFICULT TO ANSWER?
Oh, I have so many! Concerning art, it is chiefly: how can I best render and represent my ideas? In grad school, the question was framed thusly: How does one marry one’s ethics to one’s aesthetics? This is quite difficult when one considers that not only does one’s aesthetics, style, and influences shift over time, but that one’s ethics seem to demand a certain treatment. But how to find this? Where the two considerations meet – where one’s limitations in skill bump up against one’s ambitions, dictates the style in which an artist works; as one’s ambitions and skills grow, style can shift considerably. Of course, this is the main question that I will be pondering over the course of my lifetime.
PLEASE, TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE MEANING AND PURPOSE OF YOUR ART WORK? IS THERE A SPECIAL REASON WHY IT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO PORTRAY THE MILITANT AND AGGRESSIVE WOMEN WITH BARE BELLIES AND FROWNS?
In the fantasy and science-fiction genre, in which I often find myself working, there seems to be a great insistence that the heroine to be sexy and desirable and thus consumable by what feminists call “the male gaze.” The disposable income of the male gaze’s demographic feeds an industry which then perpetuates the tired iconography of semi-dressed females in battle with pointless armor, where female youth and beauty is rigidly enshrined. These overused images have the effect of perpetuating unexamined gender beliefs in the minds of the audience, undermining an ability to think differently about these issues. The positive side of this genre, however, is that the world of fantasy offers the artist a limitless platform for the “What If?” Here is a milieu in which an artist can visually play with expected norms and, in general, turn social conventions inside out. The same strategies still apply for the feminist artist, who happily targets social conventions. For my own work, I care not about whether my heroines are “approachable” and consumable by this gaze; I’d rather that they be strong and self-sufficient than to draw attention for physical beauty or a state of undress. My females may flout their physiques but never to the detriment of their strength or efficacy; their frowns are indicative of their displeasure and dissatisfaction with the status quo. These images are my own way of pointing out what is wrong not only with the genre of fantasy, but what is plagueing us in society. Additionally, I am hoping that by making a point of drawing and painting frowning, sometimes unattractive women, that there exists an important part of society that cannot be ignored, that will rise up and change things. They say – “Look and pay attention!”
WHAT KIND OF REALLY IMPORTANT ROLE DOES FANTASY CARRY FOR CULTURE, AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO USE SUCH A FANTASTIC AND EVEN SURREALISTIC STYLE?
Fantasy ‘s role is thought to have been, according to historian Jack Zipes, an outlet for imagining another outcome for reality when one’s recourse to justice is denied. Folklore and oral fantasy stories as we know them in the western world originated during the feudal era, a time where human existence was bleak; poverty, disease, famine, serfdom, and early death was the rule for most of the population.
Oral stories were a way not only to pass along information about survival, but were a way to create a “psychic tear” in the fabric of the social system. If you could imagine and create a story whereby the evil lord got his due, it created a psychological outlet in a system in which justice did not exist.
Later, as the oral tales evolved into a written form, the literate elite commandeered these fantasy stories to reinforce certain standards of behavior for children and young adults. The Grimms later adapted the oral folktales to reinforce bourgeoisie values; the Nazis usurped the tales to reinforce Teutonic ideals; Disney worked its magic to reinforce gender stereotypes, and so on. The tales’ cultural meaning switched back and forth, depending upon the holder’s ideology.
Not surprisingly, fantasy in today’s culture is often deemed escapist, puerile nonsense. I tend to think that most of the empty offerings from Hollywood exist because the dominant cultural paradigm, as usual, exerts quite a bit of effort to actively maintain and perpetuate a standard kind of thinking. But those who ingest the many cultural offerings today have at their computer’s reach a veritable smorgasbord of ideologies and as a result, are not necessarily bound by what mass media offers. Underground artists who wish to subvert the cultural norm can do so using the same medium of fantasy, as it is an excellent platform for a controversial supposition.
TELL US ABOUT ONE OF YOUR BRIGHTEST NIGHT DREAMS.
I vividly remember this dream as if it were last night… but it was 12 years ago when I was in Sedona, AZ, on a trip… Before my dream, I’d spent the evening in the company of friends in the Coconino National Forest among gigantic tall pine trees that smelled of vanilla. I saw a diamondback rattle snake on the hiking trail during lunch. The next morning (21 Apr 2001) I wrote down the dream: “Someone was selling comic books, limited collectors’ editions and it was luck of the draw as to which recipient would get the copy that had the prize. I’d heard on the radio that first prize was a million dollars; the winning cover would have a cockatrice or snake on the front. The winner also got an interview with someone famous and important. I remembered hoping this meant the president or Freddie Mercury. As soon as I got my magazine, I noticed it had a different weight to it. I tore open the wrapper, and saw that there was a black and red snake on the front. I was so secretly excited. On the front was a 5* diameter wax seal. I needed to peel back the waxen seal to see what symbol lay beneath. As I did so, what appeared was a single large yellow eye with 12 black points surrounding it in a circle. I knew this was a very powerful sign and I was intensely excited. I thought to write my name inside the cover. I was too excited to tell anyone. I listened to the others talking about what they’d received and the prizes that corresponded to them – one was flutes, the other was feathers in bright colors.”
There was more in the journal entry, but I felt that the rest was inconsequential. I’ve carried the powerful red and yellow image of the dragon eye symbol in my mind for some time now and I feel as if the main significance of this dream was not about actual money but of winning some kind of impossible life lottery. I feel lucky, indeed, and grateful for a great many things.
WAS THERE EVER IN YOUR LIFE A SERIOUS PERIOD OF SELF – EDUCATION AND HOW HAD THIS GROWTH OCCURRED?
Yes; most definitely this period of growth occurred in grad school. The grad college I attended was pedagogically very much in the camp of “self-education”. We had mentors who guided us, but we were the captains of our own intellectual ship. We students determined our own individual course of study. At first, I didn’t get that concept; I wanted more structure. However, my mentor was amazingly sharp and helped guide me towards structuring my own course of study. As a result, my work is now self-sustaining. This is everything! Being able to generate questions for one’s work and then identifying ways to aesthetically solve that problem is the most important process of creating work. This period of my life was intense and often frustrating, but I am very grateful for having gone through it.
CAN YOU SAY THAT FEMALE FROM HER NATURE IS BETTER THAN MALE NATURE?
What is this nature? Shall we wonder if women are better off, more civilized, more rational, for the effects of estrogen on their brains than men are from the effects of testosterone? I wouldn’t make such a sweeping conclusion for the simple fact that all individuals of the species contain both sets of hormones, just in varying amounts. I know some very testosterone-laden females, daredevils, lotharios, who are great examples of masculinity; and I know some lovely, poised, and calm males, who are the very paragons of femininity.
Femininity and masculinity don’t necessarily reside in bodies that formally exhibit these natures, but rather take up residence in the human spirit. We just haven’t yet figured out that enforced gender stereotypes have hampered our ability to incorporate these natures in a holistic way.
COULD YOU DESCRIBE AN IDEAL OF ABSOLUTELY FREE WOMAN AND HER RELATIONSHIP WITH MAN, HER RESPONSIBILITY IN THIS WORLD?
A woman who is free, not only earns her own money, does the work she wants, gets the education she needs, but is unencumbered by any religious ideology that would place restraints on her choices for procreation, sexual expression, or childrearing. A woman who is free makes it her responsibility to extirpate any and all harmful ideological fetters that keep her from achieving her goals. A woman who is free insists that anyone who shares her life with her does half of the unpaid household labor duties, including his share of rearing their children. A woman who is free speaks her mind and
insists on justice for those less able to speak for themselves. A man is truly free by all the same tokens.
KRISTIN, I FOUND OUT THAT YOU ARE REALLY AN OPEN AND FREE PERSON; MY QUESTION IS: WOULD]YOU EVER]IN YOUR LIFE GET OUT FROM YOUR STUDIO, GO ON A STREET OF YORK, OCCUPY THE WALL OF THE CITY AND DRAW FOR EVERYONE, ABSOLUTELY DISINTERESTED, THUS BECOMING A STREET ARTIST, FREE ARTIST?
I’ve always shied away from doing murals. Oh, I’m not at all daunted by the sheer size of such an undertaking, because I’ve made images up to 14 feet in size, but I rather dislike the prospect of having what I’ve done painted over! Additionally, it is too easy for the corporate police to arrest an artist for “defacing” private property. No, if I’m going to piss off the conservative holders of social norms, I want to be able to disseminate my work via my own property without any authorities silencing me with a single coat of wall paint. They will have to fight me using ideas. For the graffiti and street artist, however, there are scant few public places and opportunities to express dissatisfaction with the system, so defacement of property seems the only way. I guess each of us does what we must.
CAN YOU TELL IN WHICH CASES CRUELTY IS JUSTIFIED?
Never. Even in the case of sentencing a mass murderer, I would still say that inflicting suffering just for the sake of it is never justified. Our system of law enacts justice instead of retribution; it gives a people peace and stability. It is a kind of contract; one knows exactly what to expect when one abridges the law. Cruelty is random and unpredictable. An individual or state power that employs cruelty as punishment has broken with the social contract; one cannot bargain with such entities, and they should be dealt with swiftly.
Some say that telling the truth when it will hurt most is cruel, but I think truth is always preferable; it is a clean way of dealing with reality.
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING PEOPLE SHOULD UNDERSTAND FROM YOUR ART WORK?
I think the main focus of my work is to make marginalized groups visible, to give unpaid labor a face, to uncover the truth behind the old stories which have been sanitized. I feel like a miner, digging at the rock, trying to uncover what has been buried for so long. My goal is to show that it is possible for women to be strong without compromise, and for men to be pretty without apology. This direction most certainly labels me as a feminist artist, and more particularly, an LGBT artist, but I am hoping that my work has even broader activist appeal as these ideas take hold and people begin
to recognize that they’re actually seeing themselves in the images.