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Cat’s Cradle

TXST FL3X Space Fall 2020

Throughout October, I will host a series of discussions with artists and art historians covering questions and ideas that contributed to the work in Cat’s Cradle. This blog will serve as a reservoir for thoughts related to our discussions. I invite Texas State Students, faculty, and anyone else who like like to participate to share their responses to our conversation as comments. I encourage not only written responses, but also artwork in any form. All responses will be compiled as a zine at the close of the show.

Discussion 1-The White Spatial Imaginary

George Lipsitz writes about how architecture and social organization contribute to the creation of the “white spatial imaginary”. I think images do this as well. Lipsitz describes the white spatial imaginary as a fantasy of order and regularity, where people move and behave predictably in structured space. However, I think there is room in the dreamscape of whiteness for the kind of aesthetic chaos Cat Marnell cultivates in her writings and artist persona.

Cat Marnell’s imagined space is the undoing and defilement of the ideal white space.  It could be viewed as the loss of this space or its non-function.  I think this approach comes out of a punk tradition for Marnell.

But ultimately I think the space Marnell creates upholds and reinforces the ideal.  It adds to it, creating another possibility for transcendent whiteness. Cat’s writing contributes “the beauty in the ugly” as well as a redemption narrative to the pristine beauty of the undefiled white space.

If Marnell’s art ends  up augmenting the white spatial imaginary through an act of defilement, what do paintings of Cat’s body do?  Is the “visceral treatment” of the paint a deconstruction of what she presents, or is it more of a mirroring and repetition of the idea of defilement she created?

I chose to paint my surroundings not only as a traditional exercise of observation in painting, but with the explicit intent of recording my environment with the knowledge of its whiteness–its complicity in the construction of the white spatial imaginary.  This was an act of observation with intent beyond the standard mental organization of the painting process.  In addition to white space, I contemplated the problem of my own subjectivity and its construction…the seemingly inescapable tendency to fall into or align with the readily available cultural avatars of “fucked up weird white girl artist” or even just “white woman painter”.  I wasn’t necessarily trying to create images of my physical space that directly undermined that construct. I felt I had to understand it better (beyond the limitations of easy tropes) before I could move on to the use of visual tactics for its deconstruction.  I wanted to start with a more minute approach, simply to observe myself observing these spaces slowly and deliberately and with constant consciousness of what exactly I was rendering as I painted, where exactly I stood, both physically and socially.

I am interested in this:  if we analyze these images using Lipsitz’s text as a guide, what emerges?

4 thoughts on “Home

  1. Reading Cat Marnell’s memoir, I couldn’t help but think of Frank Ocean’s song Super Rich Kids. I think the ways class intersects with whiteness is another level to unpack. How is class as well as whiteness spatialized in your paintings and in the installation itself?

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    1. I was listening to Frank Ocean the morning after our discussion Blond, though). Yes, I think class, especially as Marnell portrays it in her memoir (and as I approach it in the physical spaces I inhabit and paint) is central to the show. I think class and whiteness are inextricably linked, as Lipsitz suggests in “The Racialization of Space….”. So when we are looking at space I think we are automatically also looking at class. It’s part of the role of dialogue to separate them out from each other and examine their connections and differences.

      First, all of the spaces represented in the show, including the gallery space, reflect an elevated class. Mine and Marnell’s class status makes it easy for us to exist in art spaces, spaces of higher education, and, as in the case of the Victoria’s Secret work, high end shopping environments. I think all of this is obvious to an extent.

      To me, one of the most interesting things that emerges from this examination is the role ease plays in creating an attitude in approaching art. Because I don’t feel questioned or attacked in the studio, gallery, university, or high end mall, I am able to make work with an almost lazy skepticism and disillusionment. Marnell does this as well. Class buys us the ability to destroy our nice things, along with our white bodies and minds. Cat fucks up her nice apartments, I fuck up the mall space and my studio and no one sounds the alarm or asks what we are doing there. We are just privileged weird white girls doing weird art stuff, which becomes aesthetic and entertaining. Class as well as whiteness prevents the space from becoming embattled. Class buys privilege.

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