MUNTHE ART MONDAY: CECILIA GRANARA
Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do.
I am Cecilia Granara. I paint and draw in many different shapes and mediums, and I write a lot, too. When I feel ready to share, I show what I make. Other times it stays in the studio or my notebooks as intimate secrets, cooking until it’s ready to be out in the world. Maybe some things I might not ever be ready to share in my lifetime. It will be for the art historians to reveal, like what Hilma af Klint planned for her work…
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
I’ve experienced women writing me messages about how my painting reminded them of their miscarriage, or of an abortion. Of how they feel moved and liberated. It is fuel to continue. I’ve experienced harassment and discrimination at the hands of male collectors or curators: telling me my work makes them feel uncomfortable and that I shouldn’t paint vaginas (censorship), or spectators physically attacking me in front of my work. I laugh about it now, but I was pretty outraged when I was going through it! I am very aware that the gender gap in the art world has never been more visible and talked about than now —just look at Cecilia Alemanni’s curatorial proposal at the Venice Biennale: “The Milk of Dreams”. Her show can be interpreted as a redemption of so many female (and other) perspectives that have been forgotten, disparaged, made invisible over time. I feel grateful to be alive in a time where the seeds of the fights that many feminist men and women fought before me are finally bearing fruit.
So, I know it is a moment in history where it’s become not only alright to be an artist who identifies as a woman and who openly addresses these issues. It’s almost championed now, which is interesting to watch. And it makes me careful and suspicious. I witnessed the wave of change. And I wonder how long this can last. People tend to get really pissed off at women for having power over their bodies and their images and find ways to take them down and sabotage them. Just look at recent abortion bans in the U.S.
Anyway, this consciousness of being second, of being less expensive in the art market, of being told early on that I’m less likely to be bought by institutions or that having a family could ruin my career: I carry it with me all the time. Whether I’m at an event or whether I’m painting in the studio. Sometimes I am SO TIRED of being hyper conscious of my gender. I think of Sarah Ahmed, how she suggests “switching off” the feminist filter to be able to enjoy things. But the time hasn’t come yet where gender is invisible. We are still female artists and not just artists. So keep your critical thinking goggles on!
In my work I paint so many naked women. In part because I wish the images could help build a society where my gender wasn’t so often in danger of being harassed and crushed… I paint giant metaphors of orgasms, because I think there’s nothing more powerful than to celebrate pleasure. It makes me so sad, how fleeting pleasure and joy are. How addicted we are as a society to drama and violence.
Can you name some other female (artist) that inspires you and explain why they do so?
Hannah Beerman is a breath of fresh air. I met her at Hunter College when I was a student. She has such a specific language of assemblage and in relation to abstraction. There’s something so joyful and raw about her work. It’s daring and helps me feel free.
Recently I have been looking at Faye Wei Wei a lot. I find she is playful with feminine tropes, and she treats her paintings like sketchbooks. She paints heavy things, lightly. The way she uses black, and the visible marks of her brushstrokes —it just sucks me in.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
The confusion and the noise in my head from all the awful people in positions of power told me what I should or shouldn’t be doing in my work. People seem to hate sweetness, hate pink, hate sensuality. And then love it at the same time, maybe secretly. It’s a great paradox.
What would you like people to notice in your artwork?
That underneath the lively, joyful colors, there lurks the potential of violence, the potential of heartbreak. That everything is dual, that things are not as they seem.