Feedback from visitors to my exhibition in Brighton, and insights I have had.

The best thing about hosting this exhibition, has been how it has helped me to define, much more of what the project is about. The fairly straightforward concept of taking photos for a fictional photo album, has always had other layers within it that I found hard to define. l knew there were reasons for some of my decisions, that weren’t entirely aesthetic, but I wasn’t able to verbalise why. It just seemed the right decision. Comments I got from visitors either hit a chord or didn’t quite resonate. However, by exploring these different views, I was able to gain a greater insight into my decisions.

The first comment that made me stop in my tracks was from a man who had deliberately made the journey to see my show. He said he had walked into the installation and immediately began to feel uncomfortable. With the space having been made to look like someone’s flat, he felt like an intruder poking around in someone else’s personal space. I loved this. It was a perfect reaction. I have always been interested in the idea of personal space and how it can represent ones own personal emotional privacy. In putting on this exhibition I am revealing very personal feelings and allowing others to encroach on my personal private space. It’s only fitting that by entering the make-believe flat, a person experiences this as a physical feeling as well as emotionally.

Some people couldn’t see past the weirdness to the essential message, but I saw in one the sudden realisation of what it was about, while I was talking. I had wanted to show the video clips of me while we were making the photos, although I was aware that they didn’t have the same emotional impact of the photos. The photos, once at least six had been viewed, were able to convey some of the emotional content of the subject matter, but the videos had the effect of showing how mad the project was and could be quite funny. They emphasised the wierdness rather than the sadness. So showing the videos was a bit risky. However, after seeing the videos and peoples reactions, it started to make sense to show them. Many people from Hastings would tell me about an old lady who used to push a pram with two dolls in it, who had lost twins in real life, also a man who dressed as an Indian and carried around a doll dressed as a squaw. There is a madness to the project, but it does make me ask the question- how mad do you have to get to show pain? My Aunt showed her pain through her doll, which wasn’t mad, but perhaps a little odd. There are reborn babies for sale and adults buy them, along with clothes and pretend they are real. The only difference between myself and the photos of me with the doll, is that in real life, you can’t see the grief that I carry around with me, but in the photos, its there for everyone to see. I’m carrying it around in the form of a doll.

Several people would ask if the project had been cathartic. I was quick to point out that it wasn’t therapy. I felt a bit sensitive that it wouldn’t seem like art if it was seen as therapy. Also, it would have been impossible to do the project if I had not reached a certain level of acceptance about it. Just putting on the show brought a lot of past feelings to the surface again, so I definitely need to be in a secure place to do it. What I would say though, is that there probably is an element of finishing things off. I have been playing at being a Mum, play has a therepeutic element to it, whatever age one engages with it. Roles can be explored, wishes fulfilled, happiness felt. In the words of a Dean Martin song- Theres always a happy ending when you make-believe. (from the film Artists and Models)

One comment made, was to do with the commercialisation of having a baby. I rejected this immediately, but then thought about it afterwards. Part of the reason I did an installation was I wanted to show all the things I had bought for the project. Once again, I wasn’t entirely sure why, I think it was partly to show how far I had gone with the project, and to show them in the kind of setting they would be found, but I also felt there was some emotional element to the clothes and objects bought. I had certainly found some enjoyment in buying items like the black patent shoes, as they reminded me of my favourite shoes I had had, also the little red coat. They weren’t bought for a real child, but they satisfied something in me. Linking this with my decision at the beginning of the project to make beautiful photos, there has to be something here about the marketing of the perfect family life. Not having had children, I am bombarded with these images but I’m lucky enough to have good memories of life with my own family when I was growing up, so grew up believing in them.

The most moving aspect of the feedback I got was those people who came because they identified with the project and shared how they felt, including their own experience. It was hard not to be affected by it. I also appreciate those who came and were really positive in their praise, it was lovely to get this encouragement. All in all, it was very satisfying and interesting to exhibit my work.

Press Article didn’t happen, but I’ve been selected for an exhibition in London

Unfortunately, after announcing that I would be in the Guardian, I don’t seem to be there today. I’m trying to find out if it will appear another day. Hope so.

The good news is that I have been selected for Photofusion’s annual salon members show. It’s one out of a hundred photos they are showing, but, it did have to go through a selection procedure, so at least the Birthday picture was rated and will be shown in Brixton, London. The Brixton show is from 7th December 2012 to 18th January 2013, 17A Electric Lane  Brixton, London SW9 8LA

Inspiration for the project “Photo’s I’ll never take”

The idea for the project came quite slowly, it drew from several sources and developed as it went along. I had wanted to do an art project on childlessness, but hadn’t really any idea of how to do it.

I went  to my Aunt Deita’s funeral and was quite struck by a life size doll she had on a stand on the floor in her living room. It was dressed in pretty clothes and had lovely heart buttons. To me it was a symbol for the child she never had and was “the elephant in the room”. It was the subject none of us had really talked to her about and the subject no one really talked to me much about. Yet it is ever present in my mind. Every life event or milestone for my niece and nephews or friends’ childrens, bring home my loss. I wondered why she had it there and like to think it’s a way of reminding people, “please be sensitive to my loss, please see it is always here with me.” I took a photo of the doll, but didn’t know what I would do with it.

I then went on a portraiture course at the De La Warr pavilion with Lisa Barnard. I wasn’t too sure about going on the course, as I don’t normally like portraits, but Lisa had made it sound like it would be interesting. Half way through, we had to produce some portraits with a subject, method and style of our own choosing. I decided to try and recreate the doll picture in my parents living room as they had similar furniture. This changed when I found it impossible to find a life size doll similar to my Aunts. I then saw a shop mannequin of a child in a local shop and hired that for the weekend. By now the idea had changed to photos of myself and Barry in various locations as though she were a real child. the title “photos I’ll never take” came later. We spent the weekend at Camber sands in the dunes and playgrounds and staging a fake birthday party on the sunday with chocolate cake, (that of course had to be eaten afterwards, such a waste not to).

The difficult part was buying the clothes for her. Surprisingly its not just barbie dolls that have deformed proportions. She has legs of a two year old but the chest of a six to twelve month baby.  Barry went ahead to a charity shop and warned them I would be coming and why, so we wouldn’t cause too much of a stir. We had a good laugh, but there were times when it felt strange and there were moments of sadness for me.

I presented the photos and got a fantastic reception, so decided I would have to buy her and do a year in the life for a family album. She cost £150. But I got the hire cost off the price.

The idea to include a pregnancy came after I saw a photo of me and I almost looked pregnant, (it was the clothes!) plus Barry had been joking that he wanted a boy so he could buy a scalectrix. A pregnancy and birth would fit into a year and would give me the classic shot of a mother holding a newborn baby, for the family album.

Press article about my show

I am absolutely delighted! The guardian have asked for one of the photos (the birthday) and I have been interviewed so they can run an article next Monday. (12th November)  The show is now over and everything taken down, but they will print a link to my blog, so I should get loads more traffic. With a bit of luck it may lead to an offer of an exhibition in a London venue.

I have already shown this photo, but I am posting it again, because I think its this one that they will be printing.

Exhibition extended to 3rd November

I have been able to extend the time its on to 3rd November. So there are just three days left to see the work. Thursday 1st, Friday the 2nd and Saturday 3rd November. 10am to 4pm.

Do come if you can, the installation is something that needs to be experienced rather than looked at.

I have also had a lady (Katie Barlow) contact me, who has started filming me about my project. Plus a freelance journalist has  contacted me and may be able to put an article in the guardian art pages. (heres hoping)

Its been a slow start but I am now getting visitors each day and a bit of press interest, which is heartening.

At my Private View: I cried, made a sale, spooked out the builder and yoga therapist, and we only drank two bottles of wine.

Glad the private view is over, no more getting up at 4am to finish off the space, work, blurb etc. Barry’s PV was the night before mine, so I already had a mild hangover before the day started. Managed to finish the price list and organise everything for my normal work, before driving to Brighton for 10am. Had already had a crisis over the frames prior, as the frames I had ordered all arrived broken on the friday. No time to get new ones. Found a frame warehouse in London and asked if I could drive up and collect them in person. They were fantastic! They managed to send me new frames for the next day and included perspex sheets free in case any of the glass panels broke. Of course, they wrapped the order properly, so nothing was broken in transit and I got it all up in time.

Everything was ready and I had 18 bottles of wine on sale or return, just in case I got more visitors than expected. Then came the long wait. 12.30 start, by 1.30 I was in tears.  Jane, one of the organisers of the fringe had come to give support and was the first to arrive so I cried all over her! Then not long after, I got visitors. Not as many as I hoped, but I was so grateful to my friends who did come, some from London, one from Folkestone. All journeys of 2 to 2 and a half hours. Also a few from Brighton and Hastings. As I had chosen the afternoon to host the private view, hardly anyone was drinking, so in total we got through two bottles, one red and one white. I think I drank most of the red.

Lit the birthday cake for Barry, my long suffering, wonderful husband, whose birthday it was. I had recreated the birthday scene photo, so we sat there eating cake with the new “baby” and having our photos taken. It was almost a performance!  I sold one of my photos, which absolutely delighted me! I didn’t expect to sell, as the work is so personal.

Had an interesting conversation with the lady who is moving in after me, (yoga therapist)  She said she went downstairs on a day I wasnt there, with the builder, to talk about work she needed doing and he said “I don’t think I can do this work, I think someone’s living here”  She looked around and noticed everything and was speechless for a few minutes, completely thrown. (I’m not sure they even noticed the baby on the floor or the girl in the corner)

Went for a pizza with Barry afterwards to celebrate his birthday properly.

Some Photos of my exhibition and invitation to private view

Really pleased with how the installation is looking.I won’t manage to do the family album before the show ends, but will do that afterwards.

Had a bit of inspiration from one of the estate agents that was working upstairs. He had used the bedroom to get changed and left his ironed shirt on the bed. I came down and saw the shirt on the bed and thought “yes! that improves it no end.” There was far too much childrens stuff and it really needed some adult belongings too. Anyway, the bed is now adorned with one of Barry’s shirts.

They have all moved out now, which means I have had to fill upstairs too.  I have printed out some large A2 prints for the walls. I found making the selection really hard as I have so many photographs to choose from. Its been nearly two years in the making. Diedre brought in some baby things and is bringing a high chair for the private view , so the baby can sit at the birthday table! Really chuffed about that.

Made a video out of all the clips I have already posted, plus a new movie clip made from photo stills put together. It doesn’t have the same meaning as the exhibition, but is interesting to show how people have reacted to the work when I was doing it.

The Private View is on Sunday 21st October, 12.30pm to 3.30pm, 101 Dyke Road, Brighton BN1 3JE. Do come if you are nearby and interested.