Tuesday, February 24, 2009
No More Fingers In The Dyke, Part Three
It took me a long time to get around to telling any of this to my father. I already knew how he'd react. Even the most understanding parents don't want to know details of their children's sex lives but I'd had enough of trying to hide my self. Besides, it was now all there in my new work – the large, easily accessible, billboard-like enamel on board paintings had given away to expressive and explicit watercolours on paper and stark, faux-porno' photographs.There was a time when my father exerted a huge influence on me. From an early age, he'd taught me to do things usually reserved for boys and encouraged me to excel in all areas. I was a straight-A student, despite having attended a different school every few years. I excelled in school athletics. I rode horses and motorbikes and I shot rifles with extreme precision before I was eleven (I even earned a license for the guns). I skinned the animals I hunted and prepared their meat to eat. I cured the skins. He taught me what he knew and had others teach me what he didn't. He also indulged my pre-teen girlish whims – Barbie dolls, fanzines, hairspray, frilly dresses and exotic, impractical shoes. Other children wore uniforms to primary school. I wore a t-shirt (on which I often painted) and a denim mini-skirt. He also let me read his collection of '50's comic books: in them, outrageously sexy villainesses and heroines with bodaciously curved and scantily clad bodies used their sexual wiles as weapons – Vampirella was a favorite. I became a fan of Wonderwoman and Catwoman. In my teens – and even in my twenties – my father gave me newspaper clippings about the inequality of wages for women and books about strong and unusual women, including a biography of the eccentric poetess, Edith Sitwell. He encouraged me to "be a loose cannon" and reminded me that good girls don't get ahead, gutsy girls do.I don't think my father realised that a lot of the women he brought to my attention had been persecuted, rejected or condemned for daring to choose to live and work outside the conventions of their time . When I finally got up enough courage to live the way I wanted, it became clear that what my father preferred was the comic book version of a strong woman: sexy, glamorous, even a little tough but still able to fit neatly within society's boundaries. No complications and no substance either – the sort of women I still paint in glossy enamel, using myself as a model.Ironically, my father's efforts to turn me into some kind of socially acceptable superwoman backfired. He was unprepared for what I did with the information he gave me: the reality was that it involved risk, defiance, the breaking of taboos. When I expressed my own opinions or, worse, began to act on them, my father derided them and even tried sabotage them. When push came to shove, the last thing he wanted was a woman in control. He wanted a woman in her place, which, as far as I was concerned, was being an obedient, subservient daughter. Unfortunately, for him, I'd become the woman he had raised me to be. I spoke to my father for the first time in three years, just last year. I took him to view some of my new art but he didn't really want to know about the works that weren't the colourful, comic-book 'shock pop' that I painted when he was still an influence on my life.. He still wasn't interested in anything I was trying to express, especially about myself. I accepted this for a while but then he couldn't resist spearing me with critical barbs disguised as 'jokes' at my expense. Then it got worse: the disparaging or dismissive comments about nearly every aspect of how I'd chosen to live and work flowed stronger and became as corrosive as acid. I cut off contact again.