We had the chance to sit down with Jann Haworth after her opening reception to talk more about her inspiration for March, her new and timely body of work investigating the conventions of representation of bodies, of materials, and inevitable dissent. March is now on display through October 14th, 2017.
Can you talk about the bodies as mannequins in your work? They're at once completely individualistic, yet faceless and consumed by large groups and masses.
The idea of the mannequin as an archetype, a simplification, an abstraction, a substitute, a surrogate, and an objectification is of prime interest to me. I see the mannequin as the center point of a great many things that I want to talk about visually.
I like the idea of Plato's “forms,” and his thinking about archetypes that stand for the multiplicity of variants. Like the word 'dog' stands for all dogs, of which there are a myriad of types and individuals within types. I see in this the concept of the simplified human; the Brancusi version--smoothed and pared down to essential forms. I see my figures moving away from realism toward geometry and abstraction, like the trajectory of bodies in the art historical tradition.
Then is the idea of the substitute. The doppelganger, or the fake, really appeals to me, and this is straight-up Hollywood. On the sound-stages you would see a stand-in or a double for the “star” or a latex version of Kevin McCarthy, or Dana Winters...it’s them but not them. I love how that messes with reality. This too is the surrogate, or something that takes the action replacing another. And that surrogate is a point in psychology, as is “objectification,” where one person takes the place of another, or is de-personed all together and is only a fill-in for someone else's reality.
It’s all very complicated, but we have all been in that Alice in Wonderland-like position where, like Alice, we are insisting we are real and yet we are not being treated or really perceived as real, with respect, or focused understanding.
So, the mannequin for me is a very powerful nexus of a multitude of ideas.
You're known to utilize and repurpose unconventional materials. What was the inspiration behind using cardboard?
For me, form follows idea, not the other way round. Cardboard as a form arose out of the idea that this was a parade, protest, or a march. The signage of marches is often cardboard and the images and writing may well be chalk or things that are at home, hence the use of pastel -- a refined version of chalk. Further, most of my work involves cutting. I like exact edges and I am drawn to the cut line, the stencil, the collage, cut and sewn fabric. I don't like blurred edges like you might find in impressionism.
Were there any particular challenges you had or insights you gained with this new material?
I decided that I wanted to make the composition difficult. I did this by relocating the larger figures on the edge of the picture plane, or putting the smallest figure in the middle, or reversing my normal color pallet, or having a frieze of figures rather than one central *punch* figure.
I wanted, basically, to destroy pop art.
Knowing that this new body of work was inspired by your 2008 single page comic strip Mannequin Defectors and your experience at the 2017 DC Women's March, can you speak a little more to these concepts of "dissent" and "defecting" that appear in March?
I guess it is a continuing theme that, for me, began in the Girl Scout Brownies. The expectations of the Troop Mothers made me entirely rebellious. I started a mini-Brownie rebellion, which makes me laugh a lot now.
I also think artists have a compulsion to turn left when everyone else is turning right. If the general opinion is set on something, your reaction is, "Why that? Why not x, y, or z?” I think most, all my work is probably a dissent of some sort. There is a needle in the work somewhere.
The DC March was deeply moving, it can’t really be explained. The work is an homage to the event and an offering to all marches and protests. I kept the pieces generalized, and there are no pink hats for that reason.
Could you elaborate a bit on the titles of the individual works in March and of your broader title Mannequin Defectors in general?
Saffron (pictured above) gets its title from the saffron-yellow sky. And it is such a beautiful word.
The pair of 1 Robert, 1 Dennis, & Gabriel are referencing four men whose paths I crossed and had meaningful professional encounters with who helped me in my career. They reference Robert Fraser, my gallerist in the '60s, Dennis Hopper, actor and photographer I showed with at Robert’s and knew later in Sundance, my good friend Peter Gabriel, and Robert Redford.
The other titles pick up on the fact that March is a month (my birth month) as well as a physical march. The month is generic like the march depicted, not a particular march that took place in February, etc.
The idea of the mannequin defecting is, directly, the mannequin defecting from the male studio as an objectified thing. They are refusing to 'pose' anymore.
Please stop by the gallery to see March, by Jann Haworth before October 14th.