Art is both personal and political

Being an artist means having the opportunity to be vulnerable and allowing yourself the freedom to share your experiences with a large group of people. However, being an artist  also requires a lot of responsibility as it is the artist who must share what others might be too afraid to share.

For me, being an artist has helped me navigate my identity and invite others to come on that journey with me. Having grown up around traditional gender roles and growing up in a very heteronormative town, my art has been a tool that I am able to use to challenge all of the things that I once believed were static. Being an artist has allowed me to take risks – whether that be through a performance, a digital piece or a poem. My art gives me a second voice.

From a young age, I found myself gravitating towards visual art as a means of expression and catharsis- to understand myself and to be understood better by others. In high school, it was my favourite subject and it was the only thing I really excelled at. This led me to studying my bachelor’s degree in Fine Art, where I discovered I had an attraction to the intersection of language, bodies and technology. I began making videos, drawings, hypertexts (online click-through narratives on a website) and installations about gender inequality and its roots in gender binaries.

Hybrid Thingz, Digital Print, 2020

I have now graduated, and I am still exploring my medium, mainly starting every piece with some form of poem, question, or body of text. During COVID-19, my art has been a means for me to document how the world is changing and how I am also changing. My art is quite personal anyway, but during this time I was able to really open myself up and just hope that others can find something in there that they resonate with. 

What Are You Doing?, Digital Print, 2020

My art explores the idea of softness and fragility, traits which are deemed feminine and equated to weakness. I want to empower the feminine traits that are often seen as less than the masculine traits but had an issue with these traits being assigned to genders in the first place. I like to use feminine imagery and give my work an empowered, unmovable voice. I also love using the internet as a theme and a medium in my work as I feel like the internet is a great place to explore this huge theme of identity because it is so nuanced online.

Normalies, Poem printed on satin, 2019

In my experience, art is both personal and political, just like the internet, really. I personally use art as  a mirror which I can hold up to the world so people can have a closer look at what they see around them and scrutinise things that seem to just be part of everyday life. I want people to have to think and then rethink when they see my work- I don’t really care if they like it or agree with it, as long as I can make them think twice. Finally, art is such a powerful way to start conversations with people, and I think that’s what I like the most about it. Not only can I make other people think, but I have also learned so much from others from these conversations, and that’s really crucial.

Untilted, Illustrations on A5, 2019

Find more of Megan’s work:

Louise Bourgeois and timitidy

Female artists struggle to balance the scale and ambition of their creativity with their maternal and sexual roles, finding themselves in a world of criticism in either role they decide to embark on. Juggling domestic responsibilities with artistic production often result in smaller bodies of work, smaller scales, smaller budgets compared to male artists.

Painter, sculptor, mother Louise Bourgeois is a woman who refuses to live in the shadows of timidity or compromise for her art. Bourgeois has been a magnetic figure for art critics, specifically feminist art historians and theorists since the mid- 1970s. She goes against the narrative of the timid artist, creating pieces which are repellent and sinister as well as erotic and sensual. Her work consists of lumps, bumps, bulbs, bubbles, bulges, slits, turds, wrinkles and holes. The pieces can be slick and shiny, or rough and messy and her themes are highly personal. She expresses, through her art, domestic confinement and transcendence, her interest in a French tradition of hysteria and creativity whilst connecting these personal experiences to larger issues such as gender.

She married an American art historian, Robert Goldwater, in 1938 and moved to New York. In doing so, Bourgeois moved away from a traditional, practical part of her life which was associated with women, memory and her mother, and entered what was to be a more masculine modern, professional and creative culture. She realised that her work was not big enough in this masculine world, ‘there is a timidity in the way the idea is presented’. In 1945, she had her first solo show. She originally titled her paintings in English because she believed that these paintings could have been achieved in France and therefore, could not go by a French name. These paintings, she stated, were American and just like New-York, they were clean-cut, scientific, cruel and romantic. She contrasted her fellow female painters of the 1940s, she was glamorous and elegant, she remained detached from politics, headlines and the news.

One of her major themes throughout her work in the 40s was female confinement in the home. She painted women as houses – femme maison- with the houses for heads, or  the room for bodies. This was a typical trope of Gothic writers in the 40s, of the secret inner room of a woman, which is a source of mysteries, including birth and death.

Bourgeois used female sexuality in her work, but in the 60s, she began to create more androgynous and even masculine art. Her most famous ‘erotic’ work is her latex sculpture Fillette 1968, which plays with the idea of gender. The piece is a 2ft-long phallus, it is comic and diminishing rather than commanding and dominating. She decided to call the piece ‘a little Louise’, using her name as the butt of the joke. In one photograph of the piece, she holds it tucked casually under her arm like a baguette- as if there is nothing obscene about the piece or the act of being so casual with it.

In 1997 Bourgeois exhibited a cage,  perched on top was an enormous spider sculpted in bronze. The legs completely covered the wire enclosure. Spiders became a theme for Bourgeois in both friendly and ominous means. She claimed that all the spider-related art represented her feelings about her mother. Her Maman piece 1999 is enormous and is installed at Tate Modern. This piece clearly shows how she went against the norm of timidity and, using her own language, created art in a more masculine way. Creating something unapologetic, something many people are scared of, something andrognous in a world of female vs male art is something extraordinary. She has disproved assumptions about the careers of artistic women, she is no a timid painter but a loud, proud, mechanic.