“That’s what all people do when we are frightened: we give away parts of ourselves. No one steals them or forces us. We give away our best parts: the ones that make us whole and right. Piece by piece we give them up until finally… – we are born with everything in here [inside] -everything we need to be happy and complete. But as soon as life starts frightening us, we give away pieces of ourselves to make the danger go away. It’s a trade – you want life to stop scaring you, so you give it a part of yourself. You give away your pride, your dignity, or your courage… When all you feel is fear, you don’t need dignity. So you don’t mind giving it away – at the moment. But you’ll regret it later because you’ll need all those pieces. You can always take back the lost parts of yourself if you can find and recognize them.” Jonathan Carroll “The Ghost in Love
The multi-media – photography, videography, digital art, found objects, et al – exhibit by Paul Clancy pays proof to his many styles and techniques, but the main theme of the show quickly because apparent: it is WOMEN. (Or WIMMYN or however you may choose to spell it.)
Women of all sorts: thoroughly domesticated or woodland creatures, “respectable’ bourgeois matrons and leading-edge artists and warriors, athletes, dancers and fringe-dwellers and “ordinary” wives and mothers, women of Mystery and those who seem to have chosen more mundane existences . (Although, of course, no one is truly ordinary, even those who identify themselves as such. It takes an artist’s eye to be able to see that, and, most importantly, to point out the unique essence of all. That is one saving grace we have against the pressures to belong and to conform.) At times, the many roles these women play overlap.
Mr Clancy, who very generously shared his views with me, says that he is particularly impressed with the many metamorphoses that women tend to undergo throughout life, more so than men. As has been proposed by biologists, females – which includes human females – have greater flexibility when it comes to adopting to drastic changes, have more “integrated” brains, are better at multi-tasking, etc. Those may be generalisations, but this is an aspect of femaleness that fascinates Mr Clancy especially. Have a look for yourself:
“La Femme Fauve”
“Beverly Hills Retro”
When it comes to using various techniques and styles, these are very eclectic, which is called for, needless to say. A true artist uses whatever means may be at his/her disposal, whatever seems to be appropriate to a particular piece. The creations dictate themselves. It is takes an open mind and heart to be able to listen and to heed the voice of the inherent magick. Since the very act of dissecting tends to make that magick dissipate, I would rather not dwell on the technical aspects too much, except to say that while technological tools such as the PhotoShop are used on occasion, Paul Clancy is not focused on such means to the exclusion of other more traditional methods. He is a veteran of the dark-room. Layering is sometimes very subtle, sometimes bold, the use of “mirroring” both literal and digital, providing a view into other dimensions:
Note the strong chiaroscuro effect above, an almost two dimensional property.
How inspiring and powerful is the above work! Have you read the seminal work titled “The Descent of Woman” by Elaine Morgan? While this state of oppression would never last, and like Persephone, WOMAN is making her way back to the surface and rises high above it, at last, it is heartening to see someone celebrating the Ascent, finally. I am curious, though: Mr Clancy did use the word “feminist” in my hearing, and it came out in a somewhat negative tone of voice, or at least, that was my impression.
I suppose, I have to reveal something personal here: I had “feminism” thrust upon me as a child, with no say in the matter, and while I tend to espouse some opinions that may be viewed as “feminist”, I no longer understand what this highly loaded and used and abused word means.
(“I’ve said “Jiminy jillikers” so many times the words have lost all meaning!” Milhouse, The Simpsons)
By this point, I can only agree with another woman: “I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat. Rebecca West, “The Clarion” 1913
The transitions – both in terms of still and video work – tend to be gradual, visions merge and fade, come into being and evaporate with the slowness of the Cheshire Cats’ grin. Simultaneously serious and playful, impacting both mind and the emotions, provocative – to some – and intimately familiar to others, these images succeed at what is Art’s intended goal: to open the eyes to the rich complexity, infinite variety of the world, masks – and what may lie beneath them – to see that there are so many more points of view that can co-exist alongside what has been termed as the “consensual reality”.
This is where the so-called “popular culture”, or the worst extremes of it, which tends to force a very limited view of the world, impoverishes all who are subjected to it, and in our little corner of the planet, we need to be exposed to far more instances of beauty, which is why the need for public galleries is so vital.
The models consist primarily of family members and friends, many of the shots have a very unrehearsed “vérité” feel to them. This intimacy is achieved by stealth, apparently. Mr Clancy tries to be as unobtrusive as possible, blending with the surroundings as his subjects go about their business and forget of his presence. Some of the candid shots of strangers of the street, which remarkably revealing in ways that posed portraits could never be, do raise a question of the privacy issues for me. Is it a violation? Do the ends justify the means.
There is so little privacy left, with the surveillance cameras everywhere – event in Manitoba woods is the Big Brother watching the animals! – this attitude does not rest comfortably with me. But, on the other hand, as more people become aware of the omnipresent eye in the sky, this spontaneity may well become extinct.
A member of the Kokoro Dance collective, on Wreck Beach. (A wonderfully topsy-turvy, otherworldy, introspective and mind-expanding shot!)
While I agree with Mr. Clancy’s statement that the female nude is the subject that has been done to death, still, I have to say that he manages to bring a fresh perspective, a different and novel angle, literally:
A very lovely photo! And let us refrain of making assumptions about the people one might meet, even in this trapped-in-a-time-warp locale. According to the creator, “a woman came up and talked to me about her and her daughters explorations into fetishism at my opening. Totally out of the blue.” While this may be seen as a hopeful sign that some people here dare to brake out of a very confining mould, I would not have too many expectations. As someone with personal familiarity with such subcultures, among others viewed as “threatening” by the conventional society, I know, that there is pressure to conform even among fetishists, ironically enough. Little cliques form even among those who espouse “nonconformity” and many wind up toeing the line even in the fervour of their “rebellion”. I suppose it is human nature to seek safety in numbers, to sacrifice one’s individuality for the dubious advantages of belonging. (Hence the quote at the top of this essay, in case you were wondering.)
Graceful limbs and other parts of a woman’s geography (to borrow Natalie Angier’s term) fascinate Mr Clancy as you can see:
The work below, known as “Kimono”, is an expression of digital magic and to me, at least, is evocative of Pablo Picasso’s collaboration with Ballets Russes in 1913-14, as well as that of other artists associated with this dance company, such as Leon Bakst and Natalia Gontcharova (FR.spelling.) The colours and the shapes of the avant-garde movement seem to be invoked:
While the above piece may be influenced by what was the cutting-edge of the early twentieth century, whilst employing modern tools, the following works are all from this epoch, even have a futuristic feel about them. (But let us not trap ourselves in the illusion of time…)
Other media include an exhibit of electric mixers – one from an earlier era, still in working condition and with easily replaceable parts, several others – designed to fail as soon as the warranty run out, using “cheap’ labour and shoddy materials. This amply illustrates the runaway consumerism, the throw-away mentality, the after-us-the-deluge kind of mindset which may be the greatest malaise of the current situation. This has been said so many times, but still bears repeating until is becomes deeply ingrained in the human psyche – Re-use, Recycle, Re-purpose everything you may come into contact with, use this as an impetus to your own creativity! (Necessity may be the mother of invention, and besides helping the Earth, it stimulates imagination and intelligence!) Have any leftover maquillage you do not wish to end its days in the landfill? Do as Mr Clancy does and make paintings with it! (I am not implying that Mr. Clancy recycles his own, I am not privy to such information, only that he has access to it
Anyway, to sum up: a very thought-provoking, sense-pleasing shows! Kudos!