FICK: HOW DID YOU FEEL SEEING YOUR YEARS OF IDEAS AS A WHOLE, MADE TANGIBLE IN YOUR DESIGNED ENVIRONMENT?
This show represents relatively new ideas in respect to the overall body of work entitled "Pink". Most of these ideas have been conceived within the last 2 years and were conceived of to work together in this exhibition. I am pleased with how these specific pieces communicate with each other. I have been working on "Pink" since 1996. I knew, eventually, there would be enough pieces to really make a conversation about being female. With this exhibition I feel I have finally hit a critical mass in this work.
FICK: DID YOU REALIZE ANY FURTHER CATHARSIS IN THE CREATION OF THE WORKS THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT?
Hmmm...there are always some pleasant surprises. I normally have a pretty good idea of how a piece will look/function before I can even begin the physical making process. I would say that with some of these pieces, I took a bit of a leap of artistic faith. The web ["Web of Lies"], for instance, began as a pretty straight forward idea. To begin, I sent an email out to women who have participated in my work in the past - friends, family...asking them to send me a lie they tell themselves. I expected different levels of commitment to the internalization of that request. Everyone is in a different place after all. I was surprised at how deep some women went and that they were willing to share that with me. The piece took on a deeper poignancy. Ultimately, I am pleased with the final piece and am excited about it being filled with lies that eventually cover the web itself.
"It Sucks" Diptych is another one that ended up holding more meaning than I first thought it could. For me there was a lot there, but I didn't know if it would translate to other people. Most of my work comes from my own experiences, so they are really personal on some level. That often becomes second to the physicality of the piece as it ends up. I am coming to understand the opportunity [of participation] that is embedded in my work. Not everyone takes advantage, but those who do make the work that much richer.
FICK: DO YOU HAVE MORE IDEAS FOR ADDITIONAL PIECES OR SERIES WHICH WILL BE OFF-SHOOTS OF THIS EXHIBITION?
I started using myself in my photographic work as an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa. During Grad School I went all out and did a series of photographs that really put me out there. I haven't done that so blatantly since then. I seem like a pretty outgoing person, but getting back on the horse, so to speak, was a challenge. One of the things that has always interested me in this work is facing my own taboos and demons. I never ask a viewer to take part in a piece that I haven't done myself. I believe this is why people are so willing to participate in my work. Without total exposure, total honesty on my end, I can't expect it from them.
How does it feel? It is nerve-wrecking, exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I guess younger generations should just take risks and be OK with failures when they happen. I have been interested by many comments from people who are younger who seem to be getting the message, before seeing my work. The feminism challenge ebbs and flows. I would like to see them figure out how to stop the ebb, those decades where we move too far backwards. I try not to be preachy about my feminist/humanist beliefs, with the work or in talks/interviews. I have my beliefs, one of which is that you can draw more flies with honey than with angry feminist diatribes...wait, is that how that one goes? My main goal is to get people to think about what they believe, where their beliefs come from, [and] possibly change along the way.
Libby Rowe is a Professor of Photography at Vanderbilt University. Her exhibition "PINK" is on view at the Leu Gallery, Belmont University, through March 6.