Today I am interviewing Kasie Campbell and her exploration into the grotesque feminine forms she creates and inhabits in her performance art, challenging ‘acceptable’ female beauty.
Has the trend for cosmetic perfection influenced your grotesque body suit in ‘We Are Revealed’?
Yes, I would say that my work is a critique on mainstream media’s representations of women and the fact that the female body has been inscribed with notions of beauty and disgust throughout history. Unrealistic standards around what is deemed beautiful vs. grotesque, appealing or repulsive, surrounding my own experiences have been major points of interest within my work over the past five years.
Would you consider using the character from ‘Crash My Room’ in your performance ‘We Are Revealed’? Would you expect a more adverse reaction, given that the dress code is that of a sex doll / sex worker, thereby exposing established attitudes to unconventional stereotypes?
This is a really interesting question! The Crash my Room performance was an iteration of We are Revealed however, maybe slightly more provocative/ provoking given the suit and the context of a hotel room as an alternative art space? I am really interested in the psychological charge that exists within these works and the ways that people, especially men, behave. With this work, I was really experimenting with the suits and the performance. The work deals with the vulnerabilities and anxieties that I feel when I have become the object of the male gaze and so I have created a sort of formula for movement to ease my anxieties in the performance. So if someone laughs, I might laugh, if someone touches me it would spur a different kind of response etc. Throughout the evening of that particular performance, I had men grab my costumed breasts so hard that it hurt my breasts underneath. I had men shove fingers in my mouth and pull my hair. I tried everything I could to make it stop, including screaming. I had a man yell back an inch from my face and twice as loud. Eventually I tried acting overly flirtatious and returning the gaze and I was met with comments like “You are so fucking disgusting”, “Your mouth looks like a pussy” etc. however, it stopped them from groping me- interesting huh.
Is the peephole symbolic for the objectification of all women?
Yes, the peephole plays into this idea of the gaze and objectification. I did, however, feel as though it gave me some sort of power. I was in control. I placed those there. This is how you can look at me.
Does your ‘Soft / Hard’ Series explore themes of bondage, S&M, rape and violence against women? Or is the binding simply a technique in achieving the necessary tension / shape within the structures created? Is it a satisfying process?
I would say that the rope and chain included in my work served as a way to create a sort of empathy. The binding and pinching that you see in Soft/Hard is something that is very common throughout my work. There is a tension and pressure that is evident in the tight binding and pinching of the forms. The pressure and tension in the sculpture creates a sort of synesthesia; and from that there is an empathy that I hope to generate in the audience. I certainly want a psychological charge to exist between what is physically happening on the surface of the sculpture and perhaps what is occurring at the innermost levels of the work. I am interested in making work that relates to having a physical body in a particular place and time and inviting a relationship to these bodies through the viewer’s own subjective experience to their own. Some issues frequently brought to attention in relation to the the lived feminine experience is its innate subjection to unrealistic standards of beauty, rape, sexual harassment, trauma, abuse, gender roles, violence, body dysphoria, pregnancy, birth, infertility, miscarriage, and grief. Unfortunately, far too many are able to relate to how these experiences manifest into a deep dark feeling in the pit of your stomach that can perpetuate into a constant companion.
Are these sculptures depictions of the anus? Do you intentionally play with sexual imagery in order to provoke strong reactions of embarrassment or repulsion in your audience? (I think they are wonderful!)
Thank you so much! I am interested in manifesting a physical feeling of simultaneous tensions, serving as a rebellion against the historically idealized female body and experience. The work is also focused on materiality and relatability; over-sized fleshy pieces, hair, and vulva-like figures allow for a more inclusive experience of the works. I am interested in exploring taboo topics and not shying away from difficult conversations.
Do you enjoy and encourage leaving works open to interpretation? Is feedback inspirational in new works?
Yes, I often don’t like to say too much!!! I feel like a lot of my work can be understood and interpreted in more ways than one. I am always open to conversations about the work and I do learn a lot ( and grow as a person and as an artist) hearing other viewers’ experiences and interpretations of the work, whether they be positive or negative.
Your ‘Inside / Out’ vagina tent is fabulous! Did the process of being ‘born’ hold any emotional or psychological significance, given that you are a mother yourself and have a strong bond with your own mother?
Thank you so much! Yes, my work Inside and Out (much like the rest of my work! haha) is influenced by my experiences as a mum and my experiences living in this body.
Is your use of concrete and nylon in ‘Beach(ed) Bodies’ a union of strength and fragility, symbolic of sexuality and femininity?
Yes! I would say the simultaneous tensions around soft and hard are analogous with a woman’s strength and also fragility, sexuality, femininity. While I was creating Beach(ed) Bodies, I was in an artist residency through the Edmonton Arts Council in collaboration with the city of Edmonton. So for a whole year, I worked alongside city workers. While they fixed park benches, playground equipment, I made art. I got to work alongside many staff who were very knowledgeable in concrete and so I wanted to take full advantage of the resources and assets available to me. I had generally worked in soft sculpture and I thought about uses of concrete in construction. I saw that concrete shapes are generally functional and serve a purpose. They are geometric in shape and they are strong. I wanted to play with that idea by pouring concrete into women’s pantyhose and into sewn fabric forms. Creating work that might look soft and round but hard to the touch.
As one of very few women working in the shop, I saw how much the field of construction and concrete was male dominated and so that sort of led me to this train of thought. I would sew large organic fabric forms and would pour upwards of 300 lbs into the sewn form and it wouldn’t tear. Also the mixing of concrete is like magic in and of itself, it needs all of the proper mixing’s, water added for it to be strong. It can be extremely fragile otherwise. I utilized materials traditionally associated to women and craft combined with industrial materials, drawing on the functions of Kennedale facility (where I had my residency) and the collaborative nature of the residency. The work was presented in a space that is aesthetically and historically connected to the work. As a woman sculptor working in a material that is particularly dominated by men, my work resonated with the buildings history. For some time, The Great Western Garment Company created employment and empowerment for women in this community, however, wages were low and women working in the clothing’s trade, were present as unskilled or less skilled than men.
How hard is it juggling motherhood and being an artist? I do admire you getting the kids involved in ‘Milk Bath’. Did they enjoy it?
Ah, Thanks for your kind words. Trying to balance motherhood and being an artist is very challenging! With a little one, my studio practice has evolved. I try to take advantage of the little pockets of time I do have which can make it hard to find a flow. I think what is really lovely about being an artist is how our work/life/studio sort of ebbs and flows and provides all kinds of inspiration along the way. I think being an artist is a family business. I couldn’t do it without my family and their unwavering support. Including them where I can, is really important to me and so is collaboration. They do enjoy being a part of the Milk Bath performance!- for now! We will see how long that lasts. As most artists (likely), my family and I truly live amongst my sculptures! My daughter used to cover up my work with blankets and towels when a friend would come over. She didn’t want to scare her friends off ha ha
Which artists do you admire?
I really admire Sarah Lucas, Louise Bourgeois, Tracy Emin, Katya Grokhovski, Richard Quinn, Monica Cook, Athena Papadopoulos… I could really go on and on
You can view more of Kasie’s fabulous artworks and performances at Art in Odd Places: BODY (NYC) CW: content may be upsetting or disturbing to some. — Kasie Campbell and my own Womanhood Collection here Abstract Textile Artist | Ccunningham-textileartist-woman (wixsite.com)