Pamela de Marris

Arstist's Statement

These photographic images are intended to depict and challenge hthe classic rolesdesignated to femininity. Although the definition relates only to womanliness when read in a dictionary, these pieces mean to describe the essence of the word which exists in all of humankind.

The individual participation in the creation of the final pieces has been a collaboration of the artist's and models' specific concerns working together to convey a final message regarding perceptions of being feminine.

Effeminate qualities are too often deemed as 'less than' those qualities given to the term masculinity in times past, and I do believe many still think in this way. There are strengths to both our feminine and masculine behaviors and one term can not be defined without the other, and this should be the only weakness.

Being female and having children, my artwork has always related to female and family issues, but it didn't take long for me to realize that these were not popular topics in the 'real art world' unless it e.g. depicted a very personal issue dealing with unresolved feelings from the past created by growing up in a dysfunctional family environment. Raising children and pursuing a career in art presents many challenges. Yet, I have been intimidated not to speak about the refrences I make to "Motherhood" in my work for fear of being categorized as "just another female who bought into the whole idea of woman as Mother Earth."

History states that the "feminist" movement has come from a cult of domesticity demanding that the bourgeois female cultivate the gentle arts of femininity. The leading characteristics of femininity were abstinence, both abstinence from labor and abstinence from sexuality and reproductivity, that is, the production of children. "The functions of the wife," went one formulation, "except among the poorest class, are or ought to be exclusively domestic." That meant she should "bear children, regulate the affairs of the household, and be an aid and companion to her husband." Her social importance lay in her very idleness. Nonproductivity was a major indicator of class standing; a working wife was a sign of social and economic disaster. I appreciate the fear of any refrence to these primitive times. Still, no one can deny the innate and physical make-up of the female being.

In 1976 Mary Kelly began presenting her installations as a part of the Post-Partum Document. The dirty diapers exhibited were denoted as being about a woman artist who had this seemingly new personal experience, and she felt the need to express it. But to the mainstream art crowd, her work certainly did not belong in the high art world. I can understand this response, as it represented a reaction to the partiarchal myth that was then quite prevalent. But today there is still a murmuring undercurrent that the artist/mother should not be taken as seriously. And it is not just the male response that says so but, even more painfully, the feminist.

Lucy Lippard stated in 1975, "I wondered in print why there was virtually no feminist art about pregancy, birth and motherhood except occasional subjective pictures which were often misread by the dominant cultute because they resembled similar images objectified by men. I should have known why; In the early days of feminism, I had once been congratulated by a feminist artist for 'courageously' allowing a magazine to publish a picture of me with my small son. She said she and the other women artists she knew always hid any trce of husband and children in a proffesional context. However, as a writer rather than an artist, I was not being courageous at all; I was bragging, using my son to prove I could 'do everything' be a woman (mother as well as a man (writer))." Over twenty years have passed since these happenings, yet I feel the sentiments continue to prevail today.

Along with these issues there is another idea about which I feel strongly. I realize the unpopularity of emphasizing a theme that does not fit into "current thinking" and "politically correct" ways of depicting the female. Having been informed that feminism is not to be viewed as the intuitive, Mother Earth, Sorceress, etc..., or carrying out their daily lives in scientific ways challenges a part of me that is a very significant part of my own personal history. I grew up with a tradition of listening closely to the intangible, the inner voice, and that which is never visible or explicit. I believe if listened to and followed, it can be a great asset.

Thus in these images I address these concerns by collaborating with others to present an inner side of their being and my own spiritual concerns.