Nora Antisana, 2018, oil on canvas, 28" x 33"
In her poem The Language of the Brag, Sharon Olds lays down her brag of her fullest self “pushing the new person out.” One person making another. That’s what we do, pregnant or not. Olds claims her brag for this heroic, but mostly invisible act, that womxn perform. I began looking for other brag moments that are overlooked and I found them in the digital self-portraits (selfies) of the womxn who inspired The Brag series of paintings. As with Olds, I am reclaiming the word “brag” and it’s definition of being “full of oneself” as a positive and necessary stance for womxn in a deeply misogynist and patriarchal world.
Painting these womxn is a way of being with each one of them for that time as a particular kind of witness. There is touch involved. It’s wet. I stay for hours. And when I’m done, they’re here with me and with each other. Gathered. All looking directly. Seeing me, seeing each other. A community of witnesses. As I constitute these beings in paintings on canvas, I am constituted as a painter.
This same alchemy of seeing and being seen occurs in looking at art. In the performance work, Drawing Attention, I enact a recurrent performance in the museum. As gallery visitors naturally gravitate toward work by the most famous artists, often male, I position myself for an extended period in front of one work by a relatively lesser-known artist. My attention draws their attention. In this work, intentional presence creates transformation in the experience of the gallery visitors and more visibility for the artists.
The Archive Project is an artists book which visualizes the networks that form the co-constitution of my art practice over the past twenty years. This work seeks to not simply celebrate me as the solo artist but the cloud of people and the landscape of activity and thought from which my work emerged.
My practice includes painting, drawing, performance, installation, video and artists books. Current work includes a series of paintings, an artists book, and an ongoing performance piece.
In all of these works, I am exploring visibility and co-constitution as redemptive, political acts.
Nancy Murphy Spicer