The White Columns Curated Artist Registry is an online catalog of digital images documenting the work of artists who are not affiliated with a commercial gallery in New York City. Each submission is reviewed by our curatorial staff; in order to be considered for the registry, one must submit work digitally via this website.
My paintings are explorations of lesbian feminist formalism. Rooted in the modernist weaving designs of the Bauhaus and the 1970s feminist reclamation of domestic patterning, my colorful, seductive, subtle, complex paintings challenge the traditional patriarchal boundaries of what kind of marks, colors, concepts, and subject positions are allowed access to a “high art” context. These paintings insist on a queer both/and reading, positioning the viewer as lesbian and inserting lesbian desire into abstraction. Devices such as empty horizons, blank canvas, erasures and extractions create a sense of loss or absence, and centralize the marginalized experience of the lesbian subject that is often theorized as ghostly or apparitional.
The visual motif of plaid functions as a way to insert the lesbian body and lesbian desire into abstraction. The stereotype of plaid flannel as a lesbian fashion statement functions as a sardonic in-joke in the lesbian community, as an expression of lesbian panic among straight women, and is intended as an insult when used heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.The soft, loosely painted, transparent plaids in my paintings also reference the grid, and its importance to both fabric and weaving (the literal warp and weft of the canvas). In particular, I share an affinity with the weavings and fabrics made and designed by women of the Bauhaus weaving workshop such as Gunta Stolzl, Benita Otte, Otti Berger and Anni Albers, as well as artist and designer Sonia Delaunay. Working with the rhetoric of expressionist painting, weavers like Albers, Stolzl, and Berger defied the categorical boundaries that defined modernism, creating works that could not be categorized neatly as art or craft, art or decoration.
Stripes of color painted around the edges of my pictures create a literal framing device, that allows/denies entry into the image. These frames serve to reify the recursive structure of these paintings, and function in a kind of drag. Like a wig that screams “I’m a wig!,” the frames make the paintings scream “I’m a painting!” Linguistically, framing also refers to how ideas are formulated, and systems of assumptions and standards as in the term “frame of reference.” Whose gaze/what kind of gaze is the viewer embodying when they look at these paintings? Similar to the recurring frame is the horizontal mark that swoops across the canvas in a single brushstroke. The single stroke becomes a humorous sign for the gaze of the lesbian subject who lifts her eyebrow skeptically and even disdainfully at normative culture of all varieties.
Through devices such as framing, composition, and gesture, my paintings call attention to the subject position of the viewer and raise a queer eyebrow to the modernist notion of abstraction being a higher form of art than craft, decoration, and patterning. I use marks, colors, forms, and patterns derived from everyday fabrics, lesbian herstory, and modernist Bauhaus weavings to create a space that is seductive, sensual, gentle, and sentimental. My paintings resist the heteropatriachal gaze and operate in its blind spots, engaging in the slippery no-man’s land between abstraction and decoration.
For more, please visit my website: www.simonemeltesen.com