Lezbian Fist: An Interview with Artist Paige Gratland

0 Posted by - June 20, 2008 - Conversations, Features, Visual art
[AT] Can you talk a bit about the story of Cynthia Plaster Caster, the inspiration for your project?

[PG] I saw a documentary made about her practice of casting rock and roller cock. When she started she was a art school student and rock and roll groupie who united those two interests in a project which gave her access to the people she admired. I identified with this aspect as my own projects and collaborations, free dance lessons, tit pin, burdensum, came out of an interest in connecting with a direct public. I was turned on by the strategy.

[AT] How did you select the people you casted?

[PG] I think of this as a coming out project, not as a personal declaration but as a way to connect with a history and cultural legacy. My kind of queerness is less defined by sexual preference or gender expression. I identify with what Judith Halberstam describes as a queer temporality. The ways in which queers live, work and make meaning outside of a hetero-normative model. The subjects for the series are heroes on how to live, love and succeed on your own terms

[AT] Did you travel out to meet with each of the participants?

[PG] Mostly yes. I was able to meet up with GB Jones, Savoy Howe, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan in Toronto.
JD Samson in New York.
Eileen Myles in Montreal.
Cathy Opie, Cheryl Dunye, Jack Halberstam and Phranc in Los Angeles.
Harmony Hammond in New Mexico.

[AT] What were your encounters like?

[PG] All of the encounters were really inspiring. I do think of this project as kind of performative sculpture. There is something to the process that is situationist, and kind of absurd.

[AT] What did they think of the project?

[PG] Everyone who participated seemed to like and get the humor of the project. The interesting responses have been from the people who turned me down. But I won’t get into that.

[AT] How was it for you to meet these famed queer cultural icons?

[PG] Incredible. I was often invited to the homes of the subjects, so there was an intimate setting and in some cases I was given tours of their studios, shown new body of works, given advice, told interesting anecdotes, and offered contacts for other people to cast.

[AT] Can you talk about the process of casting? What does it entail?

[PG] There have been different stages as I learned to cast through this project. But the way it works now is that we use an alginate to take a cast of the subject’s fist. People may be familiar with alginate as the material dentists use to make molds. The liquid sets to a firm gel
which the subject then pulls their hand out of. Plaster is then poured into the alginate mold to produce a master. The plaster masters are delivered to Happy Valley, the silicone manufactures, who touch up the plasters, add bases, place the signature nameplates and build molds to produce the edition in silicone.

[AT] What are the underlying principles?

[PG] Martha Gever wrote a book about Lesbian Celebrity and the problems around visibility as a political agenda for the queer community. It sort of summed up my uncomfortably around the way gay personalities were made palatable for main stream consumption. I created this project to celebrate individuals who maintain a radical voice in face of gay assimilation and acceptability.

[AT] Thank you Paige, and best of luck with the show!

Celebrity Lezbian Fist Launch.
Saturday June 21st from 1-3pm at Art Metropole, 788 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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