White Trash #1

White Trash #1 (2020)
Found object, trash, thread, and acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 in

I found a baby’s sock on my balcony and immediately thought of sewing it to a canvas and painting over it. I washed the sock and made up a canvas. It took me a while of playing with the shape of the sock before settling on the final shape and I sewed it to the canvas. I amended its position because it was too stretched out and was making the canvas bulge in places. You can see the thread I left in the old place. I attached an empty contact lens case to the canvas. I gave the canvas and everything on it three coats of Gesso primer. I mixed gloss gel medium with Titanium White and gave the sock a couple of coats. I wanted it to be shiny.

During the process of making this painting, I was thinking a lot about #blacklivesmatter and in the evenings I found myself reading up on anti-racism and taking action where I could. I assumed I was highly privileged because I’m white, have a university education and don’t suffer micro aggressions or violence or fear murder because of the colour of my skin. Then I took a privilege test, thinking I’d score high, and it came out at 39 out of 100 and told me:

You are not privileged at all. You grew up with an intersectional, complicated identity, and life never let you forget it. You’ve had your fair share of struggles, and you’ve worked hard to overcome them. We do not live in an ideal world and you had to learn that the hard way. It is not your responsibility to educate those with more advantages than you, but if you decide you want to, go ahead.

Reading that made me face the fact that I’d been trying to make my childhood and me ‘okay’ by doing things like educating myself and trying to be a middle class person, which looked ‘normal’ to me when I was growing up. I desperately wanted to be ‘normal’ and not abused, bisexual, poor, working class, female… It’s taken me 49 years to stop running from those things. As a teenager, when I got a job and had my own money I bought Vogue and stuck advertising images by Rolex and Christian Dior on my wall. I thought if I could have those things THEN I’d be okay. Of course, that’s not true and I couldn’t see the context of the patriarchy then. All I could see was I was not okay and I wanted to be okay. So now, I accept those things and that the patriarchy and its symptom, neoliberal capitalism, has terms like ‘social advantage’, as if being in society is a race or a game. And I accept that given my ‘disadvantages’ in this race or game, I am white trash. I own it. It’s nice to stop running and see clearly.

I was also thinking about single use plastic. That’s why I included my contact lens case in the painting. I have loads of these. I’ve been collecting them for years and now it’s time to play with them and make something of them. So, I think the painting looks like a fish diving and coming across something that looks like it might be food. But it’s not. It’s plastic and toxic. A symptom of capitalism and, therefore, the patriarchy.

Finally, the white paint symbolises how we can gloss over things in order to stay in denial, which is a form of weird happiness. The rich white people who ‘own’ the world seemingly cannot see that carrying on exploitation of people and our Earth will result in all of us, including them, not being able to live here.

Each coat of white primer took about 45 minutes because of the nooks and crannies of the sock. Each coat of White Titanium on the sock took about 30 minutes.

Here are the photos of the process:

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