Tuesday, October 06, 2009
From the beginning of my career as an artist, men have made the mistake of thinking that the strong, sexy women in my paintings are me.At a gallery party, a few years ago, a middle-aged executive type looked me up and down and said, "You're different to what I thought you'd be." He took my silence as an invitation to describe some twisted fantasy derived from the gun-toting women in my Lake Eyre series of enamel paintings: "I figured a white, tight wife-beater, denim cut-offs, oh, and long boots, as if you were, y'know, up for anything." "Up for anything," I repeated, blankly. How had I ended up in a conversation with a dickhead like him?"Yeah," he said. "I'd show you to my mates and pay for you and me to fly to..." I walked away, leaving him to talk to the empty space where I'd stood. As my reputation as an artist grew, I expected never again to have these sorts of encounters. I've fought hard to be respected and I've taken every opportunity to articulate in public the post-feminist perspective of my work. The severe, monochrome, shaven-skull head-shot of me used on this blog and in all my publicity materials makes it plain that I'm not exactly user-friendly when it comes to sexist fools.Today, I received an email from a married, 30-something guy who bought a painting from me a few years back. He and a friend – who "also owns one of your works" – were throwing a stag party for "an avid art collector". The theme of the stag night was to be an art exhibition so he was "just wondering" whether I'd consider (as a favour to them, as collectors) "tastefully painting" the groom-to-be "naked with some props" as a kind of performance piece in front of the other party goers. At first, I tried to stifle my astonishment and anger. Then I thought, why the hell should I? I emailed back and told him bluntly that I had no interest at all in this puerile idea. I also asked him whether such a proposition would have been put to me if I was a late middle-aged, male artist. Probably not.