Max Eternity | Interview & Review for MaxEternity.com – For the month of December, Jasmine Moorhead curates a stunning exhibition composed of archetypal imagery of women as personified by one woman—artist Monet Clark. The exhibit features various types of formatted moving images by Clark, some of which are shot in a voyeuristic documentary style.
Moorehead is the director of Krowswork Gallery—located in the heart of Oakland’s thriving arts district. And the show, which is divided into 3 distinct spaces, presents a 20-year retrospective of Clarks video work; bearing the title, Monet Clark: California Girl – A Retrospective Debut.
What follows is a recent on-site conversation with Moorhead:
Max Eternity (ME): Tell me about Monet—how she got started?
Jasmine Moorhead (JM): She studied in the new genres program at the SF Art Institute. And at that point in time she was doing a lot of performance video—performances done only for video…not live.
ME: Like what, for example?
JM: One of her early pieces is called “Convulsive Stripper.” It starts out as a conventional strip-tease, but then in moves on to epileptic fits. It’s a performance, yet it’s so well done that it’s first the discomfort of watching a strip tease and then the discomfort of that strip turning to something different. It’s a tension of two different discomforts. One is the male gaze the sexual gaze, and the other is about flesh and things that we don’t necessarily have control over. It goes from control to uncontrolled.
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ME: Yea, I was just watching that—very compelling. Could you talk more about the process of that piece?
JM: In the contest of this show, what is interesting and prophetic is that within a year of making that piece, Monet’s body broke down. She had what was basically a ten year illness. The doctors couldn’t figure it out, and it took a long time to be diagnosed. But what they call it now is environmental illness.
it was essentially about 6 and a half years of no solutions being found, then finally they understood and discovered—through her initiative—that it was an extreme chemical reaction to things in the environment…the built environment. It’s actually an autoimmune illness. It has a feedback that continues—it never goes away. She was even an invalid for a period of time.
ME: That’s both depressing and inspiring. Did she create other work during this time, and what was that like for her?
JM: Well, the piece in the middle room is called 12 frames of isolation. In that piece she is making the only art that she could, by recording video off of the TV. This piece is 4 hours long—48 hours of TV snippets, all of women. Everything from the Miss American Pageant to Doris day films to talk shows…all these ideas of what a woman should be.
ME: That’s curiously profound and disturbing, because there I see so many stereotypes in this moving montage.
JM: To sit and watch this piece for a while, especially as a woman, it’s oppressive. We just absorb these things as toxins without knowing. Monet understands the body and psyche—that these things cannot be separated.
Her process of getting well was very much about her mind; turning to rituals; having lived in south America for a while with shamans, and studying with Buddhists as well. And this is just like a good California girl discovering the truths within all those spiritual practices, so the body and the mind all work together.
ME: There’s something archetypal going on here. It’s Monet in the videos, however in her performance—including all the rather authentic and sometimes elaborate costumes—there are these hidden subconscious personifications that are wholly universal. I see thematics that every woman can identify with, especially working women. I’m talking now, in particular, about the 6 large video panels in the first room.
JM: Right, she presents 6 archetypes, which are called the “Look Book Series.” That’s a play on the modeling and fashion agencies. They have what’s called a look book, and in it are different types of models and outfits that ask what looks are you looking for.
That’s the first part—fashion—within this is the archetype of the woman of 21st century society. The moneymaker, the worker, the sex object t, the voyeur, the edgy current and the spiritual being—all these things can be said about women, and about California itself. It’s a state about spirituality and about money and vice. It makes it so exciting; defining the cultural cusp.
ME: So, it seems there is a multi-facet going on here?
JM: Yes, these works are both having the tension of being very personal and also archetypal.
What you’re drawn to in the work is the simplicity. It’s lovely the way she’s put together these videos. She’s at once ironic, and at the same time she’s very serious.
Monet Clark: California Girl: A Retrospective Debut is on view November 4th – December 17th. Visit the Krowswork site for additional details.