I'm hanging the show "Autobiography" tomorrow at WKNO, and it will be up for the month of March. There will be a closing reception Friday, March 31, 6-8pm.
As part of the preparation, I'm preparing an artist statement to go with the show, and it's been interesting to think about. This is a much more personal show than I have ever mounted, and the statement reflects that a bit. I've always been fascinated by other artists' self portraits, and it's exciting to get to show my own series at this point in my life.
Here is the statement I've written for the show:
I live a solitary life, which is not the same as a lonely one. This series of work examines my solo world in times of loneliness but also in times of fulfillment. My life is rich with art, music, canine company, and periods of romantic company, but it is still in essence a life lived alone. Society does not give us good images or models for women navigating life alone. There is tremendous pressure to couple up as the only truly appropriate state of being. The word "spinster" contrasted with the word "bachelor" speaks volumes. Society's image of women needing to be coupled ignores the demographic realities that at some point or another in their lives, women are likely to live alone. Women benefit from being able to find happiness and fulfillment within themselves. This exhibition portrays me in moments of varying success at that endeavor. I make art, dance, play music, and walk in forests regularly. Sometimes I do these things alone and sometimes in company.
I go for years without painting any self portraits, but I find myself doing them again when I am in periods of self examination, upheaval, or transition. Self portraits can feel like the most self-indulgent form of art, a feeling made only stronger by selfies, Facebook, and the proliferation of the appalling selfie sticks. However, they are a centuries old art form. Artists tend to make sense of the world around them by examining it and distilling it onto paper or canvas through the lens of their art. It makes sense that we have the same urge to make sense of ourselves in this literal and tactile way.
This show began with me looking at portraits by Odilon Redon, Edward Hopper, and Andrew Wyeth. It contains not only traditional self portraits but also scenes and places that are deeply personal to me.
One friend told me that the more particularity there is to any story, the more universal it feels. These paintings show me in my own particular world. What I hope is that they are personal but also deeply recognizable on some level to others. I want them to reach and touch and give a feeling of solidarity to others who are navigating solo or examining their places in this enormous, crazy, heartbreaking, magical world that we all live in and have to make sense of for ourselves.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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