Contemporary Photographer Series - Jocelyn Mathewes
|After the Stroke © Jocelyn Mathewes|
|The Hunt © Jocelyn Mathewes|
I’ve used copper, silver, and gold leaf in a variety of works. Mostly gold and copper, though. Aesthetically, it complements the Prussian blue of cyanotype very nicely. It is an exciting texture, and a challenging medium to work with. For those reasons, I enjoy the process of working with it. But from a meaning standpoint, my use of gold leaf mimics that of my faith tradition. We use iconography in our worship, and gold leaf represents the spiritual unseen realm (or holy light). There is so much to family life and relationships that is completely unseen, that exists in that spiritual realm; gold leaf is meant to evoke that. As for embroidery, I remember being encouraged by my grandmother to explore embroidery. She had this marvelous sewing box that was full of tools and where everything had it’s place. It felt magical and powerful to me. And when she showed me the way that different stitches could create shading, or texture, or even letters, it seemed so unusual. It was like you could write with thread, but the thread could do so many things that traditional two-dimensional media couldn’t do—weaving, three-dimensional construction, and more. I still haven’t finished exploring where thread can take me.
You seem to intentionally cultivate a positive attitude, as opposed to the trope of an artist as angsty, angry or withdrawn from society. Could you talk about that?
I really dislike the trope of artist as angsty, angry, and withdrawn. It’s a very limiting stereotype. It’s difficult to cultivate more voices in the arts and allow for more venues of creative expression—more variety—if we don’t have good alternative role models. I know that I’ve struggled to find my own way because it’s hard to find people in similar situations to my own. It’s gotten easier with the networking & searching through the internet, but it’s still difficult. But a big part of it is that my life is very full—I don’t have time to be negative, even when my health is poor or life gets difficult in other ways. I don’t have much time to waste on feeling sorry for myself, or to waste time wallowing in despair. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel those emotions or feel like withdrawing from time to time. I’m sure I’m not alone in that I’ve known some dark times. But I don’t like who I am when I find myself dwelling in that place. I don’t enjoy being endlessly sarcastic or challenging, nor do I think that is the proper “stance” to be in when it comes to living life, or that it leads to right action. It feels like its own sort of poison that eats away at the joy in life. I’d rather be listening, curious, open, observant, and vulnerable in the face of all things. So, that’s what I try to be.
|In My Garden series © Jocelyn Mathewes|
Who are other imagemakers you feel an artistic kinship with?
Hannah Hoch (working with a “kitchen knife” to make her collages, using “low” mediums), Frida Kahlo (struggling with illness & her beautiful personal expression), Kandinsky (his thoughts the spiritual in art). I keep photos of Frida Kahlo painting in bed, Henri Matisse sculpting in bed, and Flannery O’Connor with her crutches on my wall.
You mention your artist Manifesto and experience with the Artist Residency in Motherhood, which leads me to this article about art and motherhood: You Can Be a Mother and Still Be a Successful Artist . Why do you think the question of being taken seriously as an artist if you are a mother is still being discussed?
So many reasons. For one, it’s apparent that we’re not in agreement over the seriousness of women artist’s work, regardless of whether or not they are a mother, because of the lack of representation in the formal art world, in addition to the anecdotal evidence suggesting bias in gallerists/gatekeepers’ practices and opinions. A small set of things that culturally creates barriers for women artists: motherhood is a liability and a “burden,” the caregiving of children is not seen as intellectually challenging work, women (through sheer biology and cultural practice) bear most of the early caregiving, and there are geographic areas of the country where there are fewer opportunities and outlets for success. Not to mention the strange phenomenon where a woman is perceived as not serious about her career if she makes choices that prioritize her family or personal life. All those things contribute to this still being a point of contention. Perhaps this is in contrast to the positivity I want to cultivate, cynical of me, but I don’t see this as going away anytime soon, and I think that’s because we have distorted & conflicting idea of what an “artist” should be or looks like that make it difficult.
|In My Garden series © Jocelyn Mathewes|