American Pastoral by Julia Freeman
The aim is to bring together in a single gaze various different moments of the gaze. The results is a mechanism similar to what is in music we call polyphony…It seems to me that anyone who wants to communicate an idea of what is happening in his or her mind at any time can only do so by way of a cacophony of dissonant elements. Jean DuBuffet
This collection of non-linear narratives or life-studies, are created from past memories, present day experiences, information and circumstances that together tell and hide the story of American violence in all its permutations. Through the tradition of tableaux vivant, folk art and still life I tell these stories and my own. Using these familiar yet complex styles and traditions, I’m interested in how our brain gives us only a small view or space for memories and interpretations of experiences to exist within us. In these “spaces” I create and mix new knowledge with past memories, this overabundance of imagery camouflages or ignores what lurks beneath the surface. This imagery is stored together as one or as mixed information, always creating stories that seem disjointed but related, as they are all happening or have happened within the same space of the white middle class Americana.
With these collages I employ the transformative potential of materials that are underwhelming, cheap and middle-class, such as house paint, thrift store fabric, craft paper, pipe cleaners and sticky foam as well as collaged photographs taken of personal objects. These materials are cut up, painted, dyed or printed on, transforming them into collage materials and sculptural components. This transformation of the middle-class through materials is a large part of my process and conveys the “work” aspect of sorting out, organizing and storing the memories and information of the unconscious. As a maker, altering the materials allows me to deconstruct their meanings, codes and symbols and instead be “inside the fragment.”
The physical manipulation of materials is a working conversation between substance and psyche. My large collages put this “work” on a stage to create a frozen connection between our interior and the everyday world. In these collages I use colors that are almost related to each other in the tradition of color theory. I use this distorted color theory as a way to challenge reality and normality. I am interested in challenging the connections and cultural practices that are taught or created within our society. These color combinations are often times hard to look at, but are also familiar.
The “characters” that are created through material manipulation range from large blobs, giant black silhouettes, tools/objects, hedges, and stage curtains, etc. Each of these “characters” represents a part of the “indigenous American beserk” as Roth calls it or the conglomeration of the American psyche. The stage curtain is an important character, representing a mask. Meret Oppenheim once played the role of the “curtain” herself in the play Desire Trapped by the Tail. She talks about the “curtain” as mask in order to embody one’s own differentness in a playful manner: “everything subhuman and trans human, the illicit and ostracized, the repressed and tabooed, the unattainable and powerful, the feared and desired, the sacred and the profane.” The mask in my work, is a mask that is always presenting and hiding what is behind it. The implied or actual opening and closing is the performance, or reveals the performance within which is frozen.
Often times, the spaces I create are “civilized” and heavily decorated room interiors using symmetry and incorrect perspective drawn from folk art. Similar to revealing and hiding, these formal tools question reality, knowing and mastering. Wallpaper, chandeliers, Oriental rugs, wood floors and carved wood tables are place-setters and object-holders for the characters and tool/objects to mingle within and on. The claustrophobia of the space is and the large-scale of several of my pieces are meant to force interactions between these elements as well as to “hold the wall.” Paul McCarthy talks about the “taboos of the interior” and how he is interested in the orifices leading into the body. As a representation of white/middle class America, I’m interested in the interior as a place that has no orifice. Through the large-scale of these works, fancy patterns, the decorations in the rooms become a way to forget and ignore the possible openings or orifices. Instead, we stay contained and within a pressurized space of the “beserk” that is embellished.