1997, stamps, paper, gouache, ink, burns, air, shadow, string, approximately 14 x 9 1/2 feet. More subtle colouring in real life.
- This took me one year to make. I found the Stamps in Brittany at a flea market in St. Briac sur Mer. All the same French stamp on the same brown paper backing. All of it marked because it had been used. Already bizarre. The stamps were all the colors: Green. Blue. Purple. Magenta. Red. Orange. Brown. etc….It’s that French stamp they’ve been using forever with la Madeline on it. She originated in the famous painting by Delacroix called La Liberté Guidant le Peuple. I guess that means that she’s supposed to be liberty. The stamp only shows her head. Her breast (which is exposed in the painting) and her arm (which is holding the flag) is cut off. Just her head.
I took all of the stamps and cut them out according to color and the shapes of the round marking that means it’s used. I then separated every color into a pile of its own – although some blues browns and some greens stayed together. I photographed these piles, then I began to glue them down according to their color category. As the piece got bigger, I added white Moulin du Gué paper to it so that the form the stamps took wouldn’t be constricted to any particular shape or form or conventional border. I wanted the stamps to control themselves. But I must admit that it still turned pretty much into a rectangle. OK, so then it was all these weird sections of colored stamps. Ugly and uncohesive. So I painted the green section that was a VERY obnoxious color, white to muffle the unpleasant and loud. I colored pink within the magenta because pink reinforces the powder puff image of women. I painted the red ones blood red except her face. With the blue, I cut out the negative shapes for sky and air and ethereal intangibility. For dark purple, I burned out her eyes and her mouth to silence and disempower the lesbians. (because that is what happens to them, unfortunately) For each category of color I tried to think of how it related to women and react to it that way. The orange and brown and good green I didn’t touch. Brown is earth and should have been painted brown. But the other two colors had no chord in my head at the time. When this was finished, the piece was disjointed and screaming, just like la Liberté who had to be decapitated. To tone her’s down, I painted the whole thing over white (except I always left the boarders their natural white color-no need to cover the stamp frames). I smothered with white. Like snow. Quietly, yet firmly and powerfully cover la Liberté, la feminisme et les femmes en general. You never know what was there. The fact is repeated over and over is that this is the woman we’re supposed to look to for la Liberté. But she herself is not liberated. Whose liberty are we talking about here, the fraternité behind her in the painting? Her breast is exposed in the painting for Delecroix’ pleasure, and to show her as a mother, nursing the country—oh how meaningful. I couldn’t believe Linda Nochlin actually considers this a positive step for woman-kind. In the stamp, her breast is chopped off because it is unacceptable in society. The painting is exposure and the stamp is censorship: both are incorrectly handled because of their contexts. This woman is not even a person. She symbolizes a concept. All the men on stamps are famous people. There are no men who symbolize concepts. This is the only stamp that has a woman on it in France. She becomes a multitude. She is the idea of woman except her breast is chopped. No matter, she symbolizes all women and all mothers. I don’t buy it, so I muffled them all even more. I painted them white and exploded the piece into a huge whiteness sprinkled with bits and pieces of her. Half the piece is plain white paper. It ended up so huge and cumbersome I had never seen it on the wall because it doesn’t fit. Until I was in the 2nd Annual Art Exhibition which Pratt organized for grad students from the New York area. I don’t know if I like it, but I am proud that I put it up.