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Intersectionality in the arts

A few things have been plaguing my mind recently about my artistic practice. Firstly, anxiety. I have always been an anxious person and extremely critical of my work (I would wager that all artists go through this), which leads to a lot of stress and conflict about making my work public. With Instagram being so open and easy for people to interact with, I find myself judging the quality of my work according to the 'likes' it receives, if I am brave enough to even upload it in the first place.

Logically, I know that no one is likely to ever be mean or critical of my work online, but it is a constant thought that I can't upload something unless it's absolutely perfect, and I am never convinced any of my work is perfect. I have to remember that I'm not making art for anyone else, but I am making it to be seen and enjoyed, so I need to make it visible and the more I post, the more I'll think I can post. And the more pieces I upload without my 10000% approval, the more of a break I can give myself (I hope!).

Secondly, I have been focusing a lot on how to be socially conscious and intersectional in the art that I produce. Up until the last year or so, I have created predominantly white portraits and discussed feminism from my white, privileged perspective and experience. Upon reading a bunch and discussing how feminism and equality is perceived and experienced in the world and among minority groups, I have had to take a step back and notice that all of my work has been incredibly small-minded. I must acknowledge that none of that is intentional and I don't ever mean any harm, nor does it discount the prejudice I have experienced against me as a woman, but I must also acknowledge that it's that ignorance that is causing a lot of the problems when it comes to mainstream feminism.

My first reaction to drawing more inclusive portraits was anxiety (unsurprising). I felt like, as a white, western female I was somehow not allowed to draw skin colour that was different to mine for fear of getting it wrong or for appropriating it. Weird right? I can draw all sorts of things from all over the world - cultural icons like the Chinese dragon or an Indian headdress - but when it came to humans I was inherently nervous about upsetting anyone and doing it offensively. So I'm still trying to get over my initial apprehension of this and I'm trying to include people from all cultures and communities. I reason that, had I grown up viewing pieces like this, then I'd have been inherently more open minded from a much younger age. I also reason that, the more exposure I give to models or influences from different backgrounds to me, the more I can do for intersectionality as a movement. I've noticed a particular affinity for Asian portraits - I've always been absolutely in love with editorial and arthouse photography of Asian models, so it stands to reason I'd love drawing them and exploring what I love about it. I'm also slowly introducing shades and tones to skin colour (which I'd never done even for white portraits), and I'm getting more and more comfortable with it as they come along. I feel weird even writing about it - I need to stress the fact that I am privileged enough to create art with materials I can afford and that I have an audience (meagre as it is) to talk to about this.

On top of skin colour, I've always drawn thin women. It's a habit which I want to say is bad, but I don't even know if that's accurate. I suppose as artists, we draw what we know. And the media, the people I've associated with and been exposed to closely, have always been on the normal to slim range of bodies. I have been brought up to idolise the slim/fit mold and as a result, my art reflects this. However, in my day to day life, I find all bodies stunning and complex so it is silly to discount so many humans because of the incorrect way I was raised in this biased media age. So, as the second part of my endeavour, I am trying to draw bigger, rounder, plumper, normal, average, human bodies that aren't intimidating or further empowering the biased media I rail against so often.

I want to see hijabs and niqabs and tattoos and scars, fat and piercings and birth marks, bald heads, short legs, uneven boobs, messy teeth, androgyny, armpit hair, transgender, queer, wonderful humans. It feels ridiculous to think I haven't included any of this in the past. My social feeds have exploded with intersectional and culturally hype posts and I really do feel like I'm becoming a more mature and aware artist (though by no means is this what I expect of all mature and aware artists - each to their own). I just want to make sure that I'm being the best me and in turn, producing my best work.

That's where I am at at the moment. So if you're seeing art that is different to my old stuff - good. It's about time I got out of my small world and started reflecting the wide one I live in.

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