1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?
I very rarely wear make up, something about it has always made me feel uncomfortable, people being somewhat addicted to wearing it and people looking at you differently because of it. I do enjoy the ritual of it though, at festivals or parties getting ready with my female friends, adorning each other in sparkles and jewels can feel very nurturing.
2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?
I saw some of the portraits being posted up online and thought they were very beautiful, then the opportunity to participate came up and I jumped at it. I wanted to feel connected in some way to these other beautiful women and the powerful and honest perspectives they were sharing.
3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?
No, I am much happier make up free. I am at my happiest in nature, camping and wild swimming far away from the many reflections and media images projected in the city. Although I do of course have my own masks. Looking at this portrait of myself feels a bit uncomfortable because I am not smiling, I realise now that that is a mask I have; smiling to show that I don’t take myself too seriously, that I am always positive and capable, but nobody really feels like that all the time.
4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?
Going to art college has definitely affected the way I look at things. One the one hand through lots of life drawing I developed a different appreciation of the human form, and saw how icons of beauty differ over the ages. In art you see the female form a lot. On the other hand art college was a surprisingly misogynistic place, almost all female students but all male tutors, and an art history biased towards male artists. In first year a tutor pointed at one of the students, the only male in the class, a big guy who had a shaved head and was wearing a boiler suit and said “he looks like a real sculptor.” So the impression was given that to look like a man was to appear like a “real artist” and to appear feminine was to not have your ideas taken seriously.
5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?
Be kind to yourself, and accepting of kindness. There is a grace in accepting help from others and a strength in showing your vulnerabilities.
6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?
I think my idea of what it means to be empowered has changed since I gave birth to my daughter. I used to think to be empowered meant rushing around achieving impossible goals and being strong and independent. Directly after I had Maia I felt small and quiet but so assured of my place in life. That was so empowering; to feel all the expectations of the world dissipate and just feel so completely content in myself.
7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?
I am constantly in total admiration of my female friends. I am lucky to have a host of beautiful, inspiring and compassionate women around me who challenge and nurture me constantly. I also admire the actress Samantha Morton. She works in Hollywood but manages to remain authentic and natural. I saw her give a talk in the Film Festival once and it was very inspiring. She was pregnant at the time and came across as gentle and down to earth but very in control honest and uncompromising. She described acting as “a muscle” that you just have to keep working on no matter what. She said that when she had no work on she used to go to Poland and do street theatre. I think that commitment is applicable no matter what your practice is.
8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?
I feel I can make connections with lots of different people, I have gained incredible insights and lasting friendships from chance meetings with all sorts of people. I am glad people seem to trust me and see me for who I hope to be.
9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?
I think I can see potential in people, places and things that often goes unnoticed. Through artwork and community projects I have the chance to reveal this potential to others and help people find it in themselves and that makes me feel proud. Often achieving big projects and milestones in life like a degree or exhibition actually feels a bit of an anti climax where as other surprising things feel more significant. Once a little girl asked to interview me for a school project as she wanted to be an artist like me when she grew up. That still makes me feel incredibly proud to think of. I’m very proud of my daughter, seeing her be happy, loving and determined, these are the real things.
10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?
I find the pull between public and private life difficult to maintain. For me to create artwork, think up projects, be a good mum, to be happy and healthy I need quiet time to contemplate, to focus on my thoughts, my daughter, the material. But there is always a million other things to do surrounding that and the special sacred moments often seem to be compromised. I also feel the pressure to justify myself where I would prefer to just be. To create a drawing for me is a process of investigation, allowing it to reveal itself and figure something out about myself along the way. But there is always the pressure to explain its “meaning” in words, even before you’ve begun in a proposal. It's the same in life, like with my daughter; I would like to let our paths unfold together intuitively, discovering ourselves as people, as mother and daughter as we go but even before she was born I felt the pressure to have a plan, to have chosen things for this person that didn’t exist yet. That didn’t feel natural to me.