Domestically Speaking: Origins

Have you checked out the new Boysenberry Pie line? Do you love it? Are you ready for our first guest post from the lovely Leslie Graff? Today she tells us about how her Domestic Arts series came out. Don't forget that you could win a print from this collection for your very own! Read away!

“I am an artist- right now I am painting a series of women (but only their bodies) engaged in domestic activities…”

That awkward line usually comes out of my mouth with a laugh when I meet people at parties and they ask what I do. Then it’s followed by a slightly confusing digression on how this series evolved and what prompted it.

I was looking for different perspectives for figure work which prompted the piece “cleaning up the mess," an ironic self-portrait of my current stage of motherhood. In the painting is an apron my great grandmother had embroidered and my favorite mid-century nook table, which kind of got my mind thinking about historical shifts in family life. So one afternoon, I spent an inordinate amount of time waiting at a doctor’s office (without my three children). I was bored and started thinking on that painting when all these related images started popping into my head. So I pulled out a marble composition book from my purse and there on the exam table I furiously scrawled titles and thumbnail sketches for more than 20 compositions. Ever since then I have pretty much been furiously trying to get those original inspirations onto canvas. I was a little nervous embarking on the series as it is a marked change from my normal style.

People at first glance see “pretty pictures of women doing housework” but the intentions behind the paintings are much deeper. My graduate degree was in Marriage, Family, & Human Development so I taught family studies and child development at the college and university. Studying this in an academic and research setting gives me a unique perspective both historically and culturally. There isn’t a large body of contemporary art highlighting domestic work, so I took it as a challenge to paint some, not only in an aesthetic way but also with an academic undertone. I see the pieces as a sort of social statement or rather a social question series.

In contemporary American culture I see a trend toward outsourcing in the domestic sphere. More and more, traditionally family behaviors seem to be sold off to the lowest bidder. Efficiency has become a model virtue in family life. Integrating props from various time decades I intentionally blur the historical context of the piece, and prompt introspection on various generational models of family life.

The purpose of the collection is to help the viewer have a questioning experience. The symbols, the titles, the irony in the pieces, hopefully spark the viewers to explore their own experiences as the doer or the beneficiary of domestic work. The questions I want the viewer to explore are: What is the importance or significance of these tasks? Does it matter who does them? How do these tasks impact family life, generational ties? How has domestic life changed, and how have our attitudes toward family, home, and domestic work changed?

My brain food: Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, Erikson’s Theory Psychosocial Development, Interpreter of Maladies, NPR, Scientific American podcasts, Dwell, The Time Bind, F Scott Fitzgerald Short Stories.

Join us tomorrow for more Leslie and more pie! See you then!


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