Saturday, 27 June 2009

Introduction to issue 4. July 2008

Colouring Outside The Lines.
Issue #4

Something really great has happened during the four years, and four issues of this zine’s existence. It’s something I hadn’t really expected, but a vibrant community of creative minds has developed around it, within it, and through it. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many people off the back of this zine, and through the buzz and name it has created for itself; I’ve had the opportunity to include many people’s work in the zines’ pages who were able to contact me (or visa versa) and get involved; I’ve had the opportunity to support and champion work that not only means something to me, but that is of great importance to its creator(s); I’ve had the opportunity to have been invited to attend events and festivals with the zine, and further spread the word of the artists included within its pages, as well as encourage creativities; I get some of the most encouraging and inspiring mail from people who have been moved into action by reading and viewing the zine; I have had the chance to personally meet a number of the interviewees over the years at events, and connect in ways other than through the medium of an interview alone; Friends-of-friends have got in touch after finding this zine and discovering that it intersects with their own creative work, work that I‘ve then been able to access, promote, interact with, or become involved in; I’ve had exciting and excited emails from across the world from female artists excited by the project; I’ve made great friends and allies; I’ve been able to promote others’ projects as well as luckily being able to get involved with projects people have got in touch with me about - from websites, to blogs, to magazines, to interactive art projects, to mail art, to further zines; I have seen peoples’ creativities develop and flourish by keeping in touch with past interviewees and gallery artists; I’ve developed a net of individuals who I have been able to approach about other artsy projects; I have become aware of artwork previously unknown to me, and been completely bowled over by it; I have made links and connections with a wide network of people; I have made connections with people I never imagined I would; I have had interviewees say how stoked they are that so many of their friends and neighbours have featured in the zine over the years - while I was unaware that those people were linked and networked too.
In short, Colouring Outside The Lines has helped me feel connected to and via an ever developing community of interested parties, and has developed a great feeling that the vast world in which women are creative is a much smaller place - ever reachable, possible and accessible to us - and also that art and creativity not only has the power to bridge such geographical distances, but that it also has the power to breach borders - geographical and, crucially, otherwise.

The nature of community, and all that is has to offer a project such as this, is of such great importance to me as it means that the work I do here is not in a confined bubble. The art created by women out there is also not segregated. And the readers of this zine are not kept at a distance from either this zine’s production, art being made and spoken about, or crucially the creative opportunities out there that are available for us to access or interact with; Communally this whole project is about opening up and demystifying what art is, and can be to all of us through taking inspiration and confidence from those who are doing a great job at it and shining a flashlight on a yellow brick road for both us and them to continue along.

However, something else that has also developed over the past few years, as articulated to me via private emails and messages, is how this zine has had the potential to brush people up the wrong way. I was sending out a call-for-submissions for the gallery in this issue, sending the call out to women and female-identified folks. In doing so I got emails from some men who felt marginalised by the call-out, and the zine itself; a collection of artwork and creative expression by women alone. One particular email ended with a message along the lines of “fuck you for not being open to including women-friendly male artists like myself. I’m gonna go start my own magazine to spite you, and it’ll be for men only.” Such emails make me laugh with anger at how blinkered people can be; and like my ally, Paulina at Art XX magazine whom I told about such emails said: “I can't believe you got so much crap from guys, yeah my answer is : go ahead make a magazine for men artists, oh wait they already exist!”
There’s a song by Bongwater called ‘Power of Pussy’. Before the song’s intro kicks in a voice says, “Many people believe almost any darn thing they’re told; especially if it sounds like something they already believe.’ I keep thinking about this statement whenever I receive emails like the one mentioned above. Because the current coverage of female art in the press is enough already, right? There‘s absolutely no need for a zine such as this to exist, right?… Somebody’s saying this, and people seem to keep believing it. In this weekend’s Sunday papers there was an article about Louise Bourgeois - ”Oh no, ’they’re’ right, women are all over the press, and gaining all the plaudits they deserve. Why the hell should I dedicate a whole zine to female artists; I’ve been caught out“ but, ah, read again… Louise Bourgeois’ work was contained in that paper as part of a feature entitled (once again), ‘There’s Never Been a Great Woman Artist’. The fact that no-one writing such drivel ever looks beyond the High Art establishment, or alternative ways of viewing, creating, performing, or appreciating art, and the variety of transgressive artists who are unconcerned at such critique or establishmentarianism, gives me enough ammunition to diminish and rubbish such writing alone, never mind the ludicrously laughable things said about important artists such as Bourgeois (one classic line in the article reads, “only men are capable of aesthetic greatness“ !!!!)
Returning to that Bongwater speech, I’m reminded of Susan Faludi writing in ‘Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women’ that through trend journalism, what suddenly turns a given idea into fact is the mere repetition of it. As I, the artists interviewed in this issue, and the supportive community that has developed around this zine would probably agree, representation of women in art publications, galleries, etc. etc. isn’t anywhere near as good as it should be (despite angry comments to the contrary written to me about how a zine such as this one excludes men who have numerous other avenues open to them, and in doing so supports the fact the publication is ’unfair’ to men. Ha! I‘ll show you unfair!) - and so, yes, I am going to make a zine featuring the work of women and women-identified artists only. It’s still really important to do so in order to support and honour these transgressive artists, champion them, and hopefully inspire others through the reproduction of artwork that may mean something extraordinary to readers, as much as it does to me; work that does not necessarily wish to fit within the art establishment mould, and if it does, will be doing so on its own terms. The women in this issue are *great* women artists in the view of a community of individuals who can see the power and importance, the humour and skill of their work outside of confines of belief about what a woman artist should be, or how “Great” their work is (in accordance to some rubbish repeated facts about male vs. female artistry and notions of ‘genius‘ (barf!)). For me, the women in this zine, and the power such a collection can hold to the community of people that I mentioned at the beginning of this introduction is unique. As Susan Faludi continues to state in Backlash, the false front that women are judged against ‘has encouraged each woman to doubt herself for not matching the image in the mass produced mirror, instead of doubting the validity of the mirror itself and pressing to discover what its non reflective surface hides’ (1992, p78. London: Vintage). That’s where the women here come in, I don’t believe a single one of them has ever failed to doubt the validity of the mirror Faludi refers to; each and every one of the ten artists interviewed here is producing work unique to herself, and in doing so is creating work that is able to communicate in a collective manner to a wide community of individuals drawn to it. Behind that mirror’s reflective surface lie the works of the artists featured here, and that work is tremendously challenging, important, stunning, and yes; great. And I’m gonna continue to shout about these artists from the rooftops!!

Melanie Maddison.
Leeds, UK.
8th July 2008

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