My installation began as a commentary on my life as a parent with a severely disabled child, I created a tapestry out of baby wipes covered in the paint residue left from all the paintings I had made during my year of isolation as an extremely vulnerable person during lockdown. An echo of paintings past caught in a textile shroud. I merged my artistic practice with my everyday life by using baby wipes as my chosen material. Many mothers will carry baby wipes around for their child whilst they are small but gradually move away from the need for them, as the mum of a disabled child I became accustomed to carrying baby wipes everywhere, even 20 years later when my child was grown. The baby wipes became an important part of my handbag, remembering your keys, your phone and the obligatory baby wipes whenever leaving the house.
During the pandemic, I was of course not leaving the house so not carrying these baby wipes around, but began to notice a ritual of using those same baby wipes to clean myself and my brushes when painting. These wipes became the beginning of my installation I called Rituals of a Modern World.
As the work progressed, I began to think about the depression and anxiety that had dominated my life for many years. I decided to create some sculptures out of baby wipes and other found materials, black and white figurative sculptures, portraying dark and light, with the white sculptures positioned behind the black, representing the feeling of the light always being behind, just out of reach when suffering from mental illness.
Whilst in the process of creating these works, I began a dialogue with my peers and fellow artists about the pandemic and subsequent lockdown and how it had affected us all as artists and creators. One main recurring theme was spoken about by many, the feeling of being an imposter, of not feeling like a true artist. The inability to visit any galleries or exhibitions or even to exhibit our own work had left a lot of artists wondering “Who am I?” Being prevented from using studios, collaborating with other artists or even gaining inspiration from the outside world had a huge impact on the confidence and self-belief of a lot of people in the creative industry. This led to me further developing the pieces I was working on, I created another tapestry, or blanket, this time out of plain white unused baby wipes and painted the words “I’m not an artist I’m deluded” onto the fabric with light-emitting pigment mixed into acrylic paint. The words can be faintly seen in the light but once in the dark, they glow a brilliant neon blue, symbolizing the doubt and uncertainty that artists felt during the pandemic, the words becoming clearer in the dark a narrative on the way we keep these kinds of thoughts hidden, often spoken only in the privacy of our own minds.
I brought all of these pieces together, the tapestries, the sculptures and the hidden words into a compelling installation, hanging the paint covered tapestry onto the wall and draping the white blanket over some stairs I had made, symbolising disability and the climb, the journey and the feeling of being out of reach. I placed the sculptures on the steps, visualising the struggle a lot of disabled people feel. I also sprayed the white blanket with antibacterial spray, echoing the smell I associate with my frequent hospital visits but many people now associate with the pandemic.
I continue as an artist to explore my own journey with disability and mental illness using a variety of mediums and techniques.
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