THE EMPTY SUIT. Australian Galleries, SYDNEY Sept.3-22
One Sunday I went to the antiques and collectables market in an empty ground floor carpark -112 West 25th.St. NY. The market was packed with people and covered in other people’s junk. In the far corner there was an empty space only two men and their few items for sale. Later that night I made a drawing of their space.
I had made a picture called ORPANAGES MAKE THE BEST SKYSCRAPERS it was about how the rise in public conservatism had mirrored with the rise of single mothers, absent fathers and public fatherlessness. Orphans – people without fathers were having their need to win affection/approval from a strong white male figure exploited by big corporations – skyscrapers.
HR departments of big corporations look for people who are willing to work unpaid overtime, eat lunch at their desk, take home work and unconsciously absorb the ideals and objectives of the corporation. These people without fathers are still suffering from the wish fulfillment fantasy developed in infancy with their breast feeding mothers and needing a father to help them escape from. Attracted to the coldest and oldest men in suits orphans work their ways to the top of the skyscrapers only to be unfulfilled as they become the object of the needy themselves. Many orphans fall in the climb and chalk drawings circle around the bottom of the skyscrapers like sharks, others take their individually tailored chalk drawings with them in their briefcases.
A garage sale is a presentation of your life to the public, your stall is your life told in objects – junk. The two men in their stall at the antiques and collectables market gave off an immediate air of akward sexuality – they seemed captive to it. The first man caught in the act of stealing glances at a underwear catalogue was wearing a $2 shop wig and seated as if posing for a school photo. The second man wore thick make-up like a clown and wore a bright yellow rain coat that looks more like protection from judgement than the rain.
The two men of uncertain masculinity had surrounded themselves/their lives with ultra male objects ; toy soldiers, army equipment, hunting trophies, super hero comics, gun and hunting magazines. Their stall looked like a plea for us the public to confirm/buy their maleness.
I painted the repo man at art school, it’s a family portrait. As a child my family owned nothing everything was rented or on higher purchase. My father absent emotionally always and physically most of the time was an unreliable and dishonest money manager. My family faced having all our stuff reposessed regularly.
In the picture my father as the repo man is taking back the one thing the family feared the most – the TV. In an effort to stop the repo man an aunty on my father’s side is showing some leg to stop the repo man, while an uncle on my father’s side is offering one of my sisters as a trade for the T.V. My oldest sister has dressed up in her best first communion dress to beg for the T.V. In the background far corner of the room I’m holding tight what I feared most the repo man would take – my pet rabbit.
My mother used me as stick to beat my father with, she praised me for qualities he lacked and pointed out to him his lack of influence – bad influence on me.A feeling of stealing from my father his wife’s affection and the responsibility of being the sole recipient of my mother’s male love made me uncomfortable with female attention and compliments from girls made me cringe. For this reason I didn’t have a girlfriend till my late twenties. People thought I was gay, asexual or just too into painting to notice girls, I probably looked to them as the two men at the market stall looked to me.