Residency/Preswyliad

Mandy Lane is our current Artist In Residence.

She will work in the studio until December, finishing with a three week exhibition in the ArcadeCardiff project space.

________________________________________________

Blog

I was born in London but moved continually between London, Wales and Leicester. I spent some time in foster care, and as a young child lived abandoned by my mother and her partner on a field at the bottom of Cader Idris mountain. In 2000 I decided to settle in Wales.

My most recent works explore the complex inter-relationships between the female gender and the world; examining female-ness as subjected by the male gaze in both a wider-world context, and within the domestic sphere.

This lens exposes the cultural conditioning and socially ingrained objectification of females from birth, inside and out of a family unit.

I am interested in personal experience and the human condition, and how that effects culturally-set boundaries within gender. I am fascinated with the friction found between identity, culture and individuality.

My practice is multidisciplinary with a strong sense of narrative. Most recently my work attempts to expose and retell ‘her-story’, over-ruling the past and present cultural guidelines of what was important and upheld.

I hope to use the time in the Cardiff Arcade basement studio to contemplate, research and to make. To focus my energy on this friction of truth, personal experience, culture, gender and binary boundaries. To discover material and form within a narrative and subject of gender, binary, object and body.

First week in the basement.

As a neglected child, with a neglected history and heritage, my first question was:

What does neglect look like?

It becomes easier to remember when alone in the basement and without any contact to the outside world. There is also a worry that someone could accidently knock the wood holding the door open at the top of the stairs. The silence in the basement is peaceful, not as I expected. I expected to feel alarmed and uncomfortable.

My home is full of my 6 children pecking for my attention. A complete contrast to this basement of quiet space. All the same, what does neglect look like is a massive question. However, it resonates off these basement walls like it does in my mind.

What does the neglect of a culture, a class, a gender look like?

ml1

ml2.jpg

ml3.png

The neglect of a side of a story, a history, a truth or a past?

ml4.png

 The neglect of a government for its people?

ml.jpg

June 16 2017, 12:01am, The Times ANDY RAIN/EPA

What does the neglect of a generation look like? Of a town?

ml6.jpg

The neglect of a person?

 ml7

Is the neglect of a child visible in multiple blue lines?

 ml8.jpg

On one of the main roads in and out of Llanelli, there is a stark reminder of arguably the effects of neglect on a small welsh town.

Another young Llanelli boy violently took his own life. He was one of a long line of local boys that killed themselves in the recent months.

I feel so detached from my teenage-self. So detached that I can’t remember how I felt. But I do remember feeling futureless. And I wonder now if my children feel futureless? In light of this realization, I am volunteering with a youth group on a creative sculptural project. My reasons for this are partly selfish. One for research but also I wondered, if I recognize what neglect looks like, does that mean I’m part of it?

He isn’t the first young boy to believe he had no future.

And I am reminded every time I drive under his bridge.

The red balloons bounce away from their tethers, anchored to the place of end.

He mirrored the maimed of London to his own tender flesh and fell.

The loss of his life streams down my stream

He gave others life with his disowned pieces.

He saw a future in strangers

and passed them his still heart.

In the pictures that pass my thumb, the horrors of London, Manchester, London,

A digit-dart stabs down and holds, a beating pause at how bright he looked –

a fit grin of white teeth and blond hair snuggled amongst the flower-bearers and the balloon blowers.

He should never have fallen.

A quote from his father.

We should never have let him fall.

His wasn’t the first fall, and the balloons and flowers will find new tethers,

smiling faces raining down my stream to a familiar new end.

Is this what the neglect of a town looks like?

Turk’s drip-fed stolen souls

A towns heritage a plaque of flowers and red balloons.

Current reading list:

  • Our Mother’s Land: Chapters in Welsh Women’s History, 1830-1939(Gender studies in Wales): Angela V John. 

  • Struggle or Starve: Women’s Lives in the South Wales Valley’s Between the Two World Wars: Peter Mathews.

  • Our Sisters’ Land: Changing Identity of women in Wales: Jane Aaron.

  • Out of the Shadows: a History of Women in Twentieth-century Wales: Deirdre Beddoe.

________________________________________________________

Second Week

Are we as a society assisting sexism and gender inequality by the omission and exclusion of our female history?

While watching X Men First Class with the family last night I asked my daughter if she could think of a female character within the film that didn’t remove their clothes in any of the scenes. We both soon discovered that there wasn’t one. My daughter for a moment couldn’t see the problem until we put the same question to the male characters with a very different answer.

Similarly, while shopping for my son for his birthday, I fully prepared to be irritated by the science toys for boys and nail varnish maker equivalent for girls; brain dissection for boys and lip-gloss maker equivalent for girls; explore, adventure, super-hero slogans on boys t-shirts and pretty princess, unicorn equivalent for girls. Sadly, the list goes on.

But it was a Mothercare image published this year of what appeared to be a young girl dressed up in 1950’s clothing pushing cleaning paraphernalia really took my breath away.

 m21.jpg

(MotherCare 2017)

Recently within my current role I have been promoting the Arts within schools in Carmarthenshire. I actively ask every child what their GCSE choices were. depressingly, I am aware that the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification has made GCSE choices harder for young teens by putting PE, Art, Music, and now vocational subjects in the same choice column. Thus choice is massively restricted.

However, I was astounded by how popular as a subject Hair and Beauty has become for girls in retrospect to other creative and practical subjects. One pupil stated that she chose Hair and Beauty over sport because ‘at least she would get a job out of it.’ I wondered if she knew the story of Lily Parr who played for the most successful women’s team of all time called the Dick Kerr Ladies. ‘Parr played against both male and female teams and she reputedly had a harder shot than any male player’ (national football museum,2017) The team drew large crowds and in December 1920 attracted a crowd of 53,000 at Goodison Park and in the same year played in the first ever recognized women’s international between England and France.

Women’s football grew in popularity until in 1921 when the Football Association banned women from playing on their member grounds. I wonder if she knew of Lily Parr, would she still choose hair and beauty? Are we marketing sport for girls in the same way as the Tour de France where the only representation of a woman is a podium girl congratulating the male victors with a kiss?

During a recent research project when I was a resident artist for The Welsh Arts Review I learned of a woman named Amy Dillwyn. History was written that Dillwyn was ‘doomed to a life of abnegation’ when her fiancé died of smallpox and ‘despaired of leading a worthwhile life’ (Alison Favre, 2009). She is recognized as having single-handedly saved her family’s spelter works business from bankruptcy, and was also a novelist.

History is being rewritten by Professor Kirsti Bohata. She tells a very different story where Amy Dillwyn was in love with another woman for most of her life, a woman she later referred to as her wife. In her novels, Dillwyn championed women as the protagonist heroine in her novels and wrote of their same-sex desires. In society, she wore men-ish clothes and definitely did not want to marry.

I wonder, if Dillwyn’s story was told in accuracy, whether women would feel more empowered today? Would the toy aisle still be so gender separate and derogatory towards girls? Would my own daughter have had such problems with her own gender growing up had the steps taken by women such as Amy Dilwyn had not been covered over by a patriarchal society intent on oppressing its female other?

Iron On The Dress 2017 (in response to Amy Dillwyn’s life and fiction) Mandy Lane

m22.jpg

Are we as a society assisting sexism and gender inequality by the omission and exclusion of our female history?

On a recent project responding to Dyffryn Gardens, I learned about the mining and colliery industry upon which the Gardens were built. When investigating this history, I was bombarded with images of the men down the mines; of small boys blackened with coal dust; of bodies that were crumpled and bludgeoned following the too regular collapse of shafts. Later there are images of the men at the picket lines and young man under the polices truncheon.

After a period of time considering these images, I began to wonder where the women were. Professor Bohata gave me a paper entitled Counting the Cost of Coal: Women’s Lives in the Rhondda, 1881-1911 by Dot Jones.

As a Welsh woman who lived in Wales I had never heard the history I was reading in the paper. I had never heard of Elizabeth Andrews nor the need for pit-head showers. In response to this discovery, the sculpture I created was entitled Elizabeth Andrews’ To-Do Pile 2017.

m23

However, I felt that the pile was never big enough, nor ever could be to do the narrative justice. Eventually, the figure of the baby was removed by the garden staff as it reportedly caused offence to some visitors.

I found this upsetting, my memorial to the unheard female voices of the coal mines silenced again. In contrast, the memorials to the World Wars often depicting male dead soldiers are recognized without complaint or offence. Is this another example of patriarchy othering the female? Hiding the parts of history that it finds unpalatable? The To-do Pile has since been reimagined, now highlighting the reality of infant mortality, birth and birth control for the women of the pits.

I feel that a history told inaccurately is a most neglectful action, with detrimental consequences to any society, culture, gender, or individual. Were a film produced depicting Hitler’s Nazi Germany as the hero to the Allied villains, I wonder whether we would as a society tolerate this inaccuracy. Yet as quickly as iconic women like Amy Dilwyn and Elizabeth Andrews are uncovered after decades buried by patriarchy; that same society removes them from sight, silencing their voices once again. It would appear that gender bias is still hidden in plain sight.

m24.jpg

Elizabeth Andrews To Do Pile 2017

Current reading list:

  • Our Mother’s Land: Chapters in Welsh Women’s History, 1830-1939(Gender studies in Wales): Angela V John.

  • Struggle or Starve: Women’s Lives in the South Wales Valley’s Between the Two World Wars: Peter Mathews.

  • Our Sisters’ Land: Changing Identity of women in Wales: Jane Aaron.

  • Out of the Shadows: a History of Women in Twentieth-century Wales: Deirdre Beddoe.

  • The Rebecca Rioter: Amy Dillwyn

 


 

Third Week

Everyday sexism, everyday omission of herstory. ‘nid byd, byd heb wybodaeth’ (1991, Aaron & Rees)

bathgirl

A customer tweeted her frustrations at the everyday sexism and gender stereo types on children’s clothing recently.

 

“Looking 4 kids’ holiday clothes this morning ‪at Morrisons. Didn’t buy anything. I see you don’t think much of girls”

 

The slogans and statements on the t-shirts promote that boys have big ideas and that girls have big smiles, that boys are kings, and girls are pretty.

tshirts

 

The continuation and perpetuating of female derogatory gender ideals of pretty girls in comparison to clever boys arguably impacts on not only the way boys look and feel towards girls, but also how girls feel about their place in the world. The message of pretty and little girls transcends though to adult, with perfume adverts that show grown women braiding each other’s hair, dressed in white vintage clothing, appearing innocent, playing with other grown up women in a field full of daisies on a rope swing. Or a well-known yogurt advert where the dialog and mannerisms of the actress could easily be played by a 6-year-old child, “opps giggle giggle”.

Everyday sexism along with the omission of female history arguably plays into this male fantasied ideal of women. If the true story of woman can be hidden and a fake misrepresentation of woman told, this arguably undermines women’s career aspirations and future life goals. I feel that herstory has never been so important as it today.

The recent televised program ‘When football banned women’ by Clair Balding, revealed a history that I and my fellow women peers new nothing about. I as a child was a keen footballer, as was my sister who played for Crystal Palace under 16s. I wonder if this untold, uncelebrated history of successful women’s football had been mainstreamed as male history is in football, would our progression into the sport have been supported as more than a hobby to grow out of? If we had female footballer role models, would we look up to them as we did the men? A path walked is easier to follow.

Recently my daughter was involved in a school project where they were writing letters as if they were in the 2nd World War. The letters were to demonstrate their understanding of true accounts of real life during this hard time in British history. However, my daughter was asked to pretend to be a boy solder. I asked her if this was part of the role play, did everyone have different roles with in the war setting? She replied no, just the girls in my class have to be boys because girls didn’t fight in the war. I wondered, is this what we tell our girls? That they had no place in the war, no voice, no representation, no account of their experience during the war. I wondered further, is this the case with all history. Is there a female voice in our past?

 

I had become interested in Welsh mining history since the research into Elizabeth Andrews. The more I read, the more I become frustrated, but equally the more I felt empowered.

 

‘nid byd, byd heb wybodaeth’ a quote I found in ‘Our Sisters Land’. (1991, Aaron & Rees)

 

translated: ‘a world without knowledge is no world.’

 

I have been reading Struggle or Starve edited by Carol White & Sian Rhiannon Williams. This is a collection of inspiring heroic stories told by women in the time of 1918 – 1939. One of the chapters in the book is dedicated to the stories of little mothers. This is a term I had never heard of, but one that was evident in my own life. My sister was a little mother. Once my mother left, my sister took to her role as best she could at the tender age of 11. My farther worked nights and drank heavily in the day. I remember the Christmas dinner attempt. Chicken/ham slices, chips as roast potatoes, tinned peas and carrots, stuffing, Tesco own gravy and strawberry jam. It did taste just like Christmas dinner.

 

Reading about these little mothers of our past, taking the place of their own dead mothers, walking in cold footprints with no space to mourn completely overwhelmed me. I wanted to honor them, to remember them, to recognize my sister for her sacrifice but also the past. The chores and responsibility that fell on these tiny backs, at the cost of their own future.

 

I started sculpting a little mother of my own. She currently lies partially sculpted on a table, preserved in plastic in the basement. I shall make her strong, as she must have been, I will make her skinny as she would have had little to eat, and I will bow her legs as rickets was common.

sculpt

 

 

sculptbig

 

Training starts early/Ain’t I A Woman

This morning I listened to a discussion on BBC 1 Breakfast regarding the inclusion of women on the front line in the RAF. The argument ‘for’ was strong and upheld by Durham’s chief of police. Although stating that he was not and never had been part of the army, he had seen only positivity from the many years of women serving on the front line for police. Naga responded with a blatantly sexist comment hidden under the cloak of devil’s advocate:

‘It is said that men are distracted by the need to protect the weaker sex.’ She corrects herself, ‘physically weaker sex.’

It is this attitude and opinion that has frustrated women for years. This assumption of weakness, of tenderness; a screaming scared woman unable to lift her gun. Are backpacks and camouflage tarpaulin being laid over trench puddles for women soldiers to pass over?

The speech Ain’t I A Woman by Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) screams in my ear. These cultural standards that contain and inhibit the ability of women never made it to the slave trade or the cotton fields. Nor does it recognize that women have been on the front line for many war stricken years all over the world, defending their family from the war at their doors, and their bodies from rape, only a recently acknowledged as a war weapon.

The story of Ann Bonny and Mary Read spring positively to mind. Both women were brought up as boys when children, either to hide the father’s illegitimate affair with servants or for funding from a family that thought their nephew was still alive.

Once adult, both women found it impossible to conform to the restraints of the woman’s role in society. Mary Read ran off to join the army under a fake name and under the guise of a male; and Anne, after rejecting the marriage set up by her father, fled with a man of her choosing and became one of the world’s most notorious pirates in the golden age of piracy. Later, Mary Read joined Anne Bonny on the ship and they were known to have fought harder than any man. Indeed, Anne Bonny reportedly put a man in hospital for 3 days when defending herself from a sexually motivated attack.

Their piracy reign ended upon the capture of Anne and Mary and the ship’s crew. Ann and Mary were left to single handedly defend their ship from capture as the men slept below becks too intoxicated to fight. Subsequently they were all caught, once in prison awaiting their fate Anne Bonny stated to her captain ‘If you had fought like a man, you wouldn’t hang like a dog.’

With these empowering recordings of women rejecting conformity, I expected a celebration highlighting the defiance in the write-up of their history. This was not the case. The final sentence that told Anne’s story in the National Maritime Museum,
stated that Anne after her capture was released and ‘became a respectable woman’, marrying a local man and mothering her 8 children. This ideal of what is a respectable woman, the measure of what is good- the mother, the wife, the compliant, I feel with the omission of contradictory history like Anne Bonny, or the mining industry’s domestic life in Wales, builds the walls that control cultural expectations on the woman.

Cultural training starts early. Pink is the first sign and it points us to everything that is ‘ours’. Like the pink tea set that I had as a child. The pink tea set I bought my daughter and which we played with most mornings at making and serving tea. These games uphold the serve, mother, nurture, feed, ideal. Yet this is a game I never played with my sons.

I wonder. If I had known, like they did in the mining valleys of Wales, that that kettle used to be made of cast iron, that it was lifted 100’s of times each day filled with scalding water that took the skin off themselves and off their babies. I wonder, that if I knew the serving started one hour before each man rose, and ended one hour after the last man rested whether I would have encouraged it so. If I knew to serve someone else puts yourself second or last in the queue of much needed food, rest, sleep. That serving and being last meant death from malnutrition, starvation, and sleep deprivation. I wonder if that play tea set was cast in the reality of iron, would it ever be played with?