I was quite happy to see a new article this morning about my installation, “Depiction”, in the Daily Tar Heel. I put a check mark in my “win” box for this. Usually, I’m completely disconnected from life at UNC, since I have no direct ties to it, and I’ve never picked up a copy of the the Daily Tar Heel; I’ve lived in Chapel Hill since 2000 and would not have moved here if the city was not a result of how a major university can transform a small town (culture, good restaurants, lots of smart people around, etc). I only ever google “UNC Basketball” to find out whether I should avoid going downtown for dinner (“yes” if there I might be competing for a table with the sports crowd or “no” if I’m not).
But, exposure in the Daily Tar Heel is important for me, as Parasol B, because the territory of my Depiction installation overlaps with where UNC foot traffic happens, and not accidentally. I presume that UNC folks are likely to be my market for this installation: they have smart phones, are likely to stumble upon my QR code signs, and are hopefully curious enough to wonder what all the signs are about and participate.
The funny thing is, I corresponded with the reporter via email because she first contacted me early in “my” morning and I requested a bit of time to mainline coffee before speaking with her. So, she sent her questions by email instead, and probably got a more coherent response that way. She asked me what my full name was for the article. I responded “Parasol B”. Somewhere during the writing and editing process of the paper it was decided that my work was “his” work. This hasn’t happened before. It amused me and made me wonder if it mattered whether my work was perceived as being made by a man vs. a woman.
I constantly struggle with the black and white sides of “should a work of art speak for itself?” or “should the entire context of an artist, their history, the story behind a particular work, even the title of the work, inform the viewer?”. My purist me says yes to the first question, but I know I often get more out of a piece if I read the placard next to it (even though it feels like cheating).
With a lot of circumstances in life, I think that gender generally shouldn’t matter, or age either. There’s an artist who I’ve met recently, a few times, who I perceive has pretty good standing in the local art community. She was asked her age, in my presence, and when she said 25 (or a similar number, I don’t remember exactly), I was taken aback, first, because finding out a peer is that young is a bit of a shock to my system just because it makes me feel old, and second, until that moment I hadn’t consciously tried to assess her age, because there was no reason to. It sparked an inner dialog about how I could be both shocked and not care at the same time, and is still unresolved.
So, did the editor decide to go with “his” because my work is tech-geeky, not weighing that with the ideas that parasols are more often carried by women (in my experience) and the colors on my web site lean girly (in my opinion)? I wonder, but I also wonder, does it matter?
Please weigh in, either in the comments here or in my corresponding Facebook post.
BTW, I requested a fix to the online edition but I don’t know what their policy is about doing that, so it may or may not still refer to my work as “his”.