Queer, disabled, woman, Irish; many things define me and my art. I look to find the reality behind facades and the personality in imperfection. I appropriate traditional objects, materials and crafts; transforming them through assemblage, creating new forms, queer disabled forms. I am drawn to the intersections of fine art and craft.
I believe that disability is both a context and an aesthetic. Much as queer theory has enriched our understanding of modern and contemporary art, disability theory functions in a similar way. Following the logic of disability theorist Tobin Siebers, I suggest that we (the disabled) were always there (even in the good china); I just bring us to the surface. Contemporary artist Matt Smith inspires me with his work queering the museum and gallery, I seek to do something similar with disability.
I am fascinated by art in the domestic setting, the art we grow up surrounded by, sculpture in ordinary homes. I love ceramic figurines; I love how they make the journey from being objects of wonder in childhood to objects of hate in adulthood and back full circle to fond objects in old age. Broken and remade they take on a new life; they converse with each other and adopt personalities. In their original mass-produced factory form they strive towards the heights of aristocratic Meissen fine china, always falling short but they still find a home in working and middle class homes around the world.
Oscar Wilde once remarked, “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china”, I seek to free these overlooked sculptures from the constraints of porcelain perfection to the joy of queer freedom. Each piece has a history, was at some point loved, cleaned, cared for and then discarded to boot sales and charity shops where I discover and rescue them. That history and pathos creates an immediate emotional connection to these anthropomorphic, broken, queer figures.
I enjoy their gentle presence, not quite recognisable on first glance as something different, they reveal themselves on closer inspection. They subtlety conflate two worlds, a world of idealised perfection and aspiration with the glorious messy, broken reality of life.
I’m interested in the Victorian era that gave birth to mass-produced ceramics and placed art within reach of the newly created middle classes. A time with rigid rules of decorum, manners and class yet with a delightfully filthy underbelly of ‘perversion’ & queerness. Massive capitalist expansion, unheard of levels of scientific and technical development built on foundations of colonialism and oppression rocked by revolt and rebellion. Who can’t love an era that created the ‘What Not’ – furniture specifically for the display of domestic art and decoration?
My nostalgia isn’t a longing for the past idealised and rewritten, but a peek into the past that most people couldn’t/wouldn’t see and a glorious celebration of difference, oddity, gender bending, rebellious ageing, disability and queerness.