Friday, July 13, 2012

A Wiener You Can Chew On

An Interview with Michelle Wiener

Shuck My Oyster , 2007, 10"x8", gouache on paper, Michelle Wiener

Describe your practice.

I am stuck between feminism and femininity. My art practice examines this purgatorial state, and visually poses questions about what it means to become a woman.  My work is a coming of age narrative,  almost diaristic, and yet uses imagery or text that is universal in an uncanny way.

Your work often evokes overwhelming emotions of loss, longing, unrequited love and the construction of female identity.  Although your practice is not driven by food, representations of food products appear in several bodies of your work.  How do you see these pieces functioning within your larger project?

Food is deeply connected to the construction of gender.  (In a sarcastic tone) Women are supposed to be where? Yes, the kitchen… making pie.  We are taught to connect to men of our desires through their stomachs. 
In fact, food itself is a deep desire (or utter disgust, depending on taste).  It touches most of the senses: smell, sight, and savor.  Aren’t these also words to describe attraction, specifically how women are supposed to act/be in order to be an object of attraction?  We do not get the idiom “good enough to eat” for no reason. 

I utilize food in my work to not only illustrate this comparison, but also to have a double entendre occur within the work.  Word play is an active part of my practice, and it is also where the slippage of food and gender/sexuality happen.  Connotations become a double-edged sword, hopefully with humor, and cause a moment of hesitation for the viewer.

Your work reveals a hyperawareness of text.  Can you discuss your use of text?

For instance, if we look at the pieces “Dove Me in the Morning” and “Dove Me All Over,” we will at first realize that dove is replacing love within the expressions.  However, dove can be a bird, a chocolate company or even a soap brand.  The word is fertile.  These pieces are connected though the director Hitchcock, also a fan of double entendre.  The blood in his film “Psycho,” represented in my work “Dove Me All Over” by Janet Leigh in the famous shower scene, was made of chocolate syrup.  The vortex of melted chocolate takes on the appearance of a drain, much like the actual scene in the Hitchcock film. 

The two paintings ooze sex and desire, for it is chocolate and a nude woman washing herself.  You see, it is not only a play on the cultural connotations of the word dove, but also how pleasure, danger and eroticism are derived from the intersection of text and image.  One becomes more meaningful with the other. This is what excites me: the interchange of meaning.

Your last name happens to reference both a phallus and a culinary delight beloved by many.  How has this name suited you through life?

Maybe this is why I am so enthralled with double entendre. (giggles) My last name has served the purpose of shaping my sense of humor.  I tend to have a dirty mind, but it may just be the race to say the joke first, so that I don’t get embarrassed.  When I was young, I was definitely uncomfortable with it, especially when meeting new people.  However, I have learned to embrace it now, and use it as a comedy routine when introducing myself.

What is the most visually inspiring ingredient in your kitchen?

I have a collection of flavored salt in my kitchen.  They come in all different colors, ranging from whites, greys, corals, all the way to black.  I have them lined up by the stove and I smile every time I enter the kitchen.  Cooking is such a visual process; whether it is to know if you are ready for the next step in the recipe or the way you plate the finished product, you are dealing with an aesthetic experience.

Which food-interested artists inspire you?

Claes Oldenburg is one of my favorites.  The way in which he engages with scale and humor is truly inspiring.  His drawings are just exquisite, for he says a lot with few lines.

Ed Ruscha’s chocolate silk-screens and drawings- specifically 1975’s “Romance with Liquids,” a drawing made with onions and onion stain on paper.  I can only imagine how that paper smells under the glass.

Jennifer Vanderpool also explores the aspects of the pleasure principle within her work, but the medium in some pieces is actual food product, such as Jell-O powder and cupcakes.

Ana Rodriguez inspires me with her faux cake sculptures, because they also speak to the facade and fabrication of desire.  The sculptures appear beautiful, but then fall apart upon further examination- the frosting of paint is smeared, chipped, dusty and lacks that certain gloss. 

What work(s) do you currently have in process?

I am currently jarring a collection of almost two hundred love letters I bought on ebay.  I can now see that I am in some way preserving the sentiment, just as one cans food in order to conserve.  The jarred vessels become like specimens for the viewers.  I want them to question the notion of the love letter: How the emotion of one person is perceived through text, and how the meaning of something so conceptual as a feeling is expressed in an object.
Dove Me in the Morning, 2007, 10"x8", gouache on paper, Michelle Wiener

Dove Me All Over, 2007, 10"x8", gouache on paper, Michelle Wiener

You Know They Make a Cream for That, 2008, 8"x8", acrylic on paper, Michelle Wiener

Manischewitz Gefilte Fish, 2007, 10"x10", acrylic on paper, Michelle Wiener

Shabu Shalom, 2008, 12"x8.5", mixed media, Michelle Wiener

Bee, 2007, 9"x10", gesso on paper, Michelle Wiener

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