My favourite metaphor is the stew. I use it when I want to do things differently. I tell myself that only by changing the method and the ingredients will I achieve a different result. Or as an excuse not to watch TV, for example. Because if I expose my brain to certain things, I will think accordingly. And in such a conformist society, closing oneself is sometimes the only way of remaining open.
Certain emotions and certain thoughts are rubbish. And in the same way that when I eat badly for a while I end up thinking badly and when I think badly I also end up ill, if I fill my head with what is around me without questioning it, I end up producing art that is the same as the art that is already there. And I don’t want to.
Both my friend Deepa and also Diane Arbus have articulated my attitude for me. Deepa one day said that the artists around her were so obviously inspired by other artists it was all inbred. And that was the reason for such ugly art.
Similarly at an exhibition at the V&A, I read a fragment from a letter that Arbus sent to her ex-husband when she was teaching somewhere in the States. In the letter she said that she spent the day correcting the photographic portfolios of her students, which were very boring. And she worried that it would be contagious. The sentence stayed with me and resurfaces like a red alert every now and then.
Also Mario Benedetti, the author, said something like we can’t always do what we want in life, but we can at least try not to do what we don’t want. That is, not putting ingredients in the stew that will spoil it is already a big step towards success. With age I am learning that fewer ingredients of better quality are the best base. And that the art is in the method.
Illustration: “Grandma’s potion” from the Feminist Gooseneck Barnacles series.