I’ve written a million bios at this point. Well, maybe 50 to be really honest, but it seems like it’s taken me ten years and 48 different versions of it to finally start chipping away the extra stuff and get down to the heart of describing proficiently who I am, and what I am doing with painting. I wrote my 50th or so Bio today for a show and it finally seems to be a cohesive message with clear meaning. I hope. I’m still wish-washing between the third person and first person battle though. We all agree, I think – writing about yourself in the third person is weird, uncomfortable and feels stifled. Let’s face it as well, most people hate writing their bios. It’s so crucial to defining your practice though, that if I was teaching painting to third year college students I would make them write a new one every other week. They would despise me for this, unquestionably, but the ones who continued on to a daily art practice after graduating would thank me for it. I think.
After years of the same over poetic, long-winded bio, I started getting critical of it finally. The procrastination of this process is pretty amazing. I’m impressed it’s taken me so long to realize how valuable it actually is. Not just for describing who I am to others so they can place me in whatever box is needed as per human categorization and processing goes, but really more so for myself and gaining a deeper understanding of what my mission statement is a painter. Naturally as the years pass, your statement should be changing and growing with you. Here’s the new one I wrote today, which is not perfect whatsoever, but a heck of a lot better then previous attempts.
“Linda Wandt is an Austin based oil painter who primarily creates surreal portraiture and figurative works. Originally from Long Island, NY, she moved to Texas in 2000 and attended UT Austin from 2003-2006 where she obtained a BA in Studio Art while also focusing on literature and philosophy. Through painting, Linda is trying to explore the topics of forging identity, what it means to be female in the present as well as in the past, and examining the subconscious and how it interacts with the conscious mind. The narratives and characters in her pieces which often involve flora and fauna as well, invite the viewer to question these topics in their own way.”
Writing this bio today made me excited. My work has jumped all over the place over the years in both style and direction. I don’t view that as bad, I’ve just been painting whatever the heck I’ve wanted, which is what anyone should be doing. I paint a lot of models from life, but I’ve also been painting bees, owls, venus fly traps and llamas and my favorite musicians or authors or other painters and I’ve been painting the conceptual pieces that represent what I’m *actually* trying to convey. The thing is, these things are all connected in some way. It’s just not possible to see that sometimes, not until years later. I’m starting to connect the dots now, and my paintings don’t feel as random anymore. A teacher once said “You don’t reinvent the wheel with each painting. Each piece should lead you to the next”. I’d make a painting in 2007 and then have the idea for the next in that “series” 7 years later. In present time, I can start making the pieces I want with a closer technical skill to what I desire from what I produce, but those older pieces still hold space with me, and contribute to what I make now.
Today’s bio is succinct for the purpose of the show, it’s cohesive enough to get the basic point across, but I found myself still wanting to write when it was done. Those three topics I described in the bio break it down into easily digestible snippets. It’s more complex then that though, and again comes the questions I’ve been dodging for years – Am I a feminist painter? Yes if you count how I ultimately want to depict my female subjects, as minds in clothed bodies with thoughts and dreams and daring to brush up against the edges of reality in their quests for greater understanding of themselves and their places in the universe. What I just wrote leads me to understand that the pieces are surreal, sure, but also existential. Some of the pieces are not strictly about a female experience though, and within that context could be interpreted far from what was intended. Smokescreen and Instinct vs Intellect especially, those pieces portray women representing humanity, outside of the gender bias. Microcosm as well, the figure in that piece represents all of us. I feel so strongly about that, and have found no other place to express it then here. I used female figures for them merely because that is the filter though which I understand everything around me. These paintings are societal commentaries. The first two reflect American problems, to be even more specific, the first is political protest, the latter a comment on our relationship with nature. Microcosm reflects on possibility, that we are but one consciousness amid the multiple possibilities, the universes at the ends of the forks in the horns and the keys and locks representing what we do along our paths, and that is not to speak of one gender. We are a micro in a macro. I couldn’t find the room to express this in the bio, while there was a strong sense of satisfaction from it, it prompted the need to keep typing.
The pieces are not random, not at all. I need the bio and statement writing to keep myself on track sometimes though. A family member once looked at one of my earlier paintings (The Queen of Bones to be specific, a nearly disturbing painting, true) and they just shook their head, and said “I could never look so deeply within myself. I’d be afraid too.” We as painters get to do this, if we choose to. It’s important that we do this. It’s important that we go to the scary places, that we search the depths of our psyches. It’s important that we perform this function for society as well, and reflect back to it what we see in it.
So before I digress more here’s the idea – if you make paintings and haven’t really been focusing on bios/statements, write one. Then write it again. Then again. It’s like burning your first 100 poems before you write a good poem. I’ve burned several of my paintings at this point, and I’m really glad I have. I’ve painted over many more then I’ve burned. My catalogue at this point is just over 100 (I realize that is not a lot), and I’ve destroyed or sanded off and covered the same amount or more I’d wager. This applies to the entire process of refining what you do, to growing over time. Don’t change the bio or statement you’ve already written, a mistake I’ve made so many times. Start it over again from scratch. Over and over again.
p.s. I’m sorry there were no images in this post. I’ll do better next time! I haven’t gotten around the Zorn palette like I said I would in the last post, which was a long time ago, but more about color to come!