Painting as a craft

I wanted to be a painter and I believed I’ll be a great one. I was thinking when I was 15 that I’ll never have children because women cannot be artists and mothers at the same time. But of course that at that point these thoughts didn’t feel like they really concern me, these were plans for a life so far away that it didn’t seem like my life.
Later, in my early twenties, as an art student, thinking about the troubled relation between being a woman and wanting to be an artist was still very present. Even if the girls in my Art University were at least equal in number to the guys (in my generation, there were actually more women than men graduating), still there was always this lingering feeling that our becoming artists is for a limited number of years, that it will always be in conflict with our femininity.
At the time when I was a student, in the late nineties, higher education was still tuition free, but it was quite tough to get in, especially for fields considered to be High Art, like painting what I studied. (Textile arts and pedagogy, as more “feminine” domains, were slightly easier to access, even if, of course, it also required a lot of work.) So, I was among all these girls working hard and learning stuff to access art education and also having a feeling that I’m intrinsically meant to not fully succeed. We didn’t know about any woman painter to really admire. My professor, a man in his sixties, was a big fan of Jackson Pollock and of all the neo-expressionists like Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer. I wasn’t really aware at a conscious level of their influence on me, but of course that looking at these male geniuses as models made me feel even more inadequate. We had no idea what feminism is and we thought that art should be about an universal humanity (that is always male and white). If our paintings were labeled as “feminine” (meaning that they dealt with some minor topics from daily life, that they were more narrative, that they were modest and invoked some subtle or banal feelings) it was a very demeaning and shameful label.
I have studied there all the required five years trying to paint as a man and being more and more unhappy. Having a very gloomy feeling that what I do is not art, that art should be something different, that it should speak sincerely about your own life and conditions, but having no idea what to do with this feeling.
In my last year, I knew I had no intention to paint anymore after I graduate. Even the smell of oil paints would make me sick.
I was right, after graduation I happily didn’t paint anymore. Together with my then colleagues, soon best friends and currently the persons I consider my family, we started an artist group. We learned together about art and we did become artists, working in different mediums such as text, photography, textiles, performance, etc. and speaking about our lives and about our realities.
Even if painting stopped being this terrain of sadness and inadequacy after I graduated and put the memories of my university years behind me, still I didn’t touch a paintbrush for years.
But then, last year, I went and bought a canvas and some paints. It coincided with a time when I have started pursuing more constantly my crafting hobbies as a way to alleviate stress. Also, it had to do with me watching the kids at school play with colors and experimenting and having fun. Actually painting as a fun, non-pretentious thing to do used to be so much of who I am. I have decided to paint from time to time as a craft, without any expectations. Just to play with colors without waiting for the “inspiration”, for something that should be beyond your (female) individuality, beyond your daily life, beyond technique, for some wave of almost mystical fervor that should be so universal (meaning male).
I paint now when the rhythm of my days allows it. I don’t enter some closed workshop room or some “inspired” state of mind. I paint in our living room, while my friends read or write or sew, while we talk and laugh. I watch for the dogs not to tip over my water cup or not to step into my palette. I only paint to give my canvases away as gifts to family and friends, I don’t want to keep any of them. I don’t care about the end result, I hope of course to have something I like at the end, but I can always cover the parts I don’t like and start over. I don’t care about outside judgment because these will never be part of my career. And I finally love it again as I used to love it at 15 (minus the worrying for being a woman) and it does feel good to take back something that I have lost, transforming sadness and disappointment into pleasure again.

16 (2)


18 (1) Here there are (temporarily) some of my paintings. Sometimes the dogs manage to knock them down, but they are still ok :). IMG_0023


6 thoughts on “Painting as a craft

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