AMY NELDER AND CHLOE LEJNIEKS
HONEY BABY CHICK SUGAR SWEETIE : For two years now I've been working with my daughter Chloe to transform Wonder Woman into the avenging and protecting angel of bodily and semantic autonomy, her 22K gold-leaf halo reminding you of the purity of her purpose, drawing Chloe into the studio since she was 8 years old to paint this visual dialogue with me - "That's NOT My Name" - creating an abstract narrative on the iconography of these names she can expect to be called throughout her life - talking with her about her right to accept or reject those words and names as well as to extend that self-determination to and beyond her body into any other aspect of her life.
The aesthetic of the series happened quite naturally while Chloe and I were painting together one day. One minute I was trying to figure out the best way to talk to her about sexual harassment and protecting her body, heart and mind, and the next thing I knew we were working on a painting of Wonder Woman busting out of a bottle of honey and "the things people will call you throughout your life - Honey, Baby, Sweetie" - and having a wonderful discussion about her right to decide who gets to call her what and not having to explain herself to anyone. Chloe and I have fun with palette knives, which are a lot messier and more permissive than the tight high realism I normally create with my Pop Trompe L'oeil.
My studio is on public display in our gallery, and at least once a quarter a man will walk in, remark on the virtuosity of my work, and then tell me how surprised he is that it was painted by a woman. It’s offensive and funny at the same time - but it’s the fault of a male-dominated art history. I was at the art store the other day and in the kids’ section there were two items, ironically hanging one above the other on the wall: One was labeled 'Artist’s Disguise' - It was a mustache and goatee over a male face; the other one was 'Frida's Smocks and Frocks', a toy that was basically a magnetic Friday Kahlo paper doll with different outfits. But that pretty much boils down the art world for you: The well-known icon for ‘Artist’ is a little man with a black mustache, beard and a beret. The closest icon for ‘woman artist’ is Frida Kahlo in the form of 'oh, my, look at her in all her different outfits!' How much has changed since the late 80s when the Guerrilla Girls posted billboards around NYC blaring ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.’ I hope that my show contributes to a future when the automatic cartoon for ‘Artist’ is no longer a little French man in a beret. - Amy Nelder