It's monday morning (er....afternoon)
I'm sitting having a coffee, still slightly reeling from the past week.
About a week and a half ago, I left with fellow Chattanoogan and Badass painter Cindy Procious, coffee in hand (this is a theme with me...), ready to burn some serious rubber in her soccer mom van towards Charleston, SC. Van loaded with everything from hairspray to turpentine, we hit the road, not knowing what was going to happen in the upcoming week. All we knew was that we would be painting for a week with ten other women painters in a house on the beach of Sullivan's Island, and that we both had two paintings being shown for a big show called Women Painting Women at the Robert Lange Studios Gallery.
After 8 hours of laughter and tears, we pulled up the the enormous house. Wind blowing, tired legs shaking, we knocked on the door, only to hear a squeal from inside, then to be greeted with a hug that lifted me off of the floor by head honcho Alia El-Bermani! Her and Diane Feissel were in hysterics! Here we were, 4 grown women who had never met, screaming like little kids when they run into a new hotel room and absolutely must jump on every bed to test it out.
Shortly after, more of the women kept arriving ( Sadie Valeri, Linda Tracey Brandon, Terry Moore Strickland, Alexandra Tyng, Rachel Constantine, Kate Stone, Catherine Prescott,and Stefanie Tewes ) and we started to all get a little nervous over our pre-exhibit get-together at Robert Lange Studio.
As we parked in downtown Charleston, and walked out all together, I felt something I have never felt before, really. Here I was with women of all different ages, not really knowing many of them, not knowing their backgrounds or stories, or how they came into this crazy profession. But each one of them had a big smile on their face and eyes of awe as we walked into the gallery. There it was, the works of over 50 female painters from across the US and Europe, all hanging beautifully side by side, a mix between a grouping of colorful flowers and a tiny army.
We all walked in a bit of silenced awe, just taking in how wonderful it looked, and how unusually strong the work was. Megan Lange, owner of the gallery and fellow painter, greeted each and every one of us as we walked in, smile and warmth in abundance, and a great sense of pride filled the place right then. Here we were, a night before the opening, all sort of teary in the gallery and thankful to be in such company.
Of course the night proceeded with going to Carri Schwab's house (gallery director) and drinking a little too much and laughing a little too hard. I mean, just cause it's a room of lovely ladies doesn't mean we don't get down and party a little too hard ;)
Ironically, the next morning we had a model come to the house at 9 am. There we were, in a living room-turned-makeshift studio, painting in our pajamas, coffee and turp side-by side.
OH! And the painting gear!! Folks, you have not seen painting gear until you are in a house of twelve landscape painting easels, 10 jugs of turp, enough paper towels to soak up an oil spill, rags, brushes, gloves, paints, bags, panels, hats, bug spray, sunscreen, canvas....... it was all SO HARDCORE.
My painting was a load of poop that morning, but I loved being hungover and still getting something done.
The rest of the afternoon was spent painting on the beach and eating.
Then, at around 4:30, there was a sudden flurry of women getting ready. We had transformed, as a collective group, from painting die-hards in ripped jeans and sweatshirts, to frolicking women in dresses and jewelry. Hair spray, makeup, curling irons, too many heels, pantyhose, it was all over the place. Every bathroom in the house had 3-4 women plucking, drawing, polishing, fluffing.
We left in 3 cars, butterflies in stomachs, final swipes of mascara still being applied.
We got to the gallery a little late (fashionably...). I did not expect what I saw. The place was PACKED. You couldn't even walk in!! All the other galleries on the street were sort of going, but nothing like our place! There must have been several hundreds of people trying to come through, hanging out in the street, waiting to get in!!!
I was so, so proud to be in this show.
So, I'm going to spare you every detail, for fear of going on a little longer than most modern attention spans can handle. I can say this: I sold both my paintings before the opening, met some incredible people, and sort of fell in love with both the ladies I showed with and the Robert Lange Studio!
The rest of the week was a blast. We painted together almost every night until 11 pm sometimes, and I doubt that rental beach house had ever seen so many drop cloths and easels in its past.
(notice that we hung a background cloth over the flatscreen tv... my kind of ladies..)
So, I have to recap a few things worth interest, and that I noticed. Being in a fairly safe place with other women opened up a lot of conversations that I have never had the opportunity to have. How do these female painters feel about having kids? Do women fetch lower prices in galleries? Are women painters a weaker investment for collectors? Does any of that stuff even apply anymore?
Many of the women in the group were a bit older than me.... and had seen very different times for female artists. In fact, we all realized pretty soon on that naming female artists was something that most people can't do easily.
But before some of you think that we were all in two camps of either feminists or mothers, let me say something. There was a line that Cathy Prescott said on our last day that really got to me. We were all talking about how women have a unique viewpoint that is very worthy in art. And Cathy started talking about how she had once painted a nude of her daughter, and how she loved painting every inch of the canvas because it was a painting of the skin she had once made from her own body. It was a place in art that was very specific, very special, and very true.
And so I have been thinking about that a lot since I got back. How women paint themselves, or other women, is something unique. I look at my own pieces I sold at the show, a self-portrait, and one of my best friend Erica, and I see something in them that came out, perhaps without my knowing. They are both sad a bit, very mysterious and beautiful. They are also very off-beat. They are not actually pretty at all. And I know this sounds a little obvious as a description of women, but my mom said it best: they are evocative. They are recollections of something I saw or experienced. Something unique to me.
And many of the pieces in the show had this sensitivity. It is not better or worse than a male perspective. Just different. And there is now, because of a lot of hard work, room for this difference.
Thank you to all of those ladies, to the Robert Lange Studio, to all of the family and friends who have supported me, and to everyone out there who tries to see things for what they are.
I'm such a sap.