Some years before I was born my mother would get ready in this room. I’ve always loved to watch people groom – comb their hair, put on perfume, shave, tie a tie. When I was little I’d sit on the edge of the tub transfixed as I watched her transform on Saturday nights before she and my Dad would go out. I recently made art about that feeling of getting lost in that particular type of watching.
This piece came about when Dwayne Butcher asked me to be in a collaboration show called Memphis Connections that he was curating at Marshall Arts Gallery. I wasn’t sure who I was going to ask to collaborate with when one day I was having lunch at my house with my old friend Brian Pera and I realized that my collaborator was sitting right across from me. (Brian writes about the collaboration here.)
For many years now we’ve stood on the sidelines of each other’s creative life cheering one another on. Brian started out as a writer and has taken his love for story telling one step further into filmmaking. Whenever we need honest feedback about our work we turn to one another. Color is important to both of us, often rising to the level of a character in my paintings and his films. One source of our pallettes comes from women's magazines from the 1950s and 60s.
As we sat at my dining room table brainstorming about what we could make, I said I was curious about doing an installation about grooming and to somehow wrap that ritual in the rich colors of his movies.
We started by looking at my collection of old magazines.
Then we picked a palette.
Once we had the colors, I made these backdrops.
And then it was time to shoot. Here's Brian rigging up the lights.
We thought of all the women we know that might be willing to stare into a camera, brush their hair, and put on makeup one Monday evening. We were very lucky to get Savannah Bearden, Betsy Taylor, Jessica Buttermore and Autumn Potter. Also, Brian’s great DP Ryan Parker shot it for us.
When it came time to make the installation, we knew we wanted to create a sense of living space, so we decided to paint the wall of the gallery a buttery yellow, as well as a dresser and a frame for the monitor. A floral stencil was a must.Here I am doing some last minute touches in the gallery.
Brian came up with the perfect title Ladies Home Journal. He also scored the music. I feel like the piece was a success because at the opening people would get lost in it much like I did as a kid when I'd zone out into watching my mom get ready.
Right now we're back in our own worlds. I'm working steadily in my studio and he's in the midst of pre-production on a new feature he's shooting soon called "Only Child". I know that Ladies Home Journal will find it's way into our new work. How could it not?