Art is About
Feb 10, 2016
A Conversation with Patricia Schnall-Gutierrez
by Eddie Arroyo
The multidisciplinary work of Patricia Schnall Gutierrez (including painting, drawing, sculptural objects, performance and installation) draws its inspiration from a self-referential account of personal memories, situations and emotions. Using distinct choices of mediums, household objects and materials, she creates an autobiographical account of the everyday, drawing the viewer into an intimate dialogue that often probes questions of gender and sexuality. Through her personal stories, she shares a unique perspective on controversial issues facing contemporary woman and society.
Patricia Schnall Gutierrez was born in Buffalo, New York and received a BFA (cum laude) from SUNY Buffalo in1978. After a move to New York City in 1980, she continued her education at the New York Studio School.
In 2007, Schnall Gutierrez relocated to Miami, Florida where she currently lives and works. She has exhibited in numerous art institutions including the Naples Museum of Art, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Museum of Florida Art, Appleton Museum, Lowe Art Museum, YAA Museum, Patterson Museum, MADA New Media, as well as in University Exhibitions, Art Fairs and Galleries in and outside of Florida. Her work was selected and showcased in the private Sotheby’s auction at the Margulies Collection, she has received the Award of Excellence from the Biennial Six Exhibition at the Florida Museum of Art and was also a recipient for the Florida Department of State/Division of Cultural Affairs Visual Arts Fellowship.
I remember first coming across your work Housewife Diaries at the 6th Street Container last year and was struck by the presentation of your objects/sculptures. It was intimate and sensitive regarding your personal narrative. Given the distance of time, how has that exhibition resonated with you?
The exhibition at the 6th St. Container was unique to me in that Adal gave me total freedom to curate the show the way I wished. I came up with the title, “Housewife Diaries”, inspired by the film, “Diary of a mad housewife”, a 1970 comedy-drama. The bulk of my work is so centered on my own personal experiences and referenced to various roles and circumstances played out in my life , after re-watching that film I saw so many similarities between me and the female protagonist, Tina Baksar, played by Carrie Snodgress, that I went with that and had fun with it. Coming away from that show brought more humor into my work. Even though the subject matter is pretty darn serious to me, finding the absurdity in it all is something I now always consider.
when did you first watch the film and when did you re-watch it?
Honestly, I can’t remember when I originally saw, Diary of a Mad Housewife. Keep in mind, I was in high school, an aspiring artist getting ready for college, and the closest thing to a character like Tina’s was my mother; or much older sisters for that matter. Her character as a manipulated housewife was certainly not anyone I could, or would want to relate to at the time. I was quite rebellious and free spirited, and visions of my future were radically different from a traditional housewife. There was a lot of talk about the movie at the time. It’s interesting how we unintentionally follow the paths we are most familiar with though and in my case, following suit as a mother and ( part time) housewife just happened. My work since the 1990’s reflects just that.
While I was coming up a body of work for the 6th Street show and looking at my work as a whole, the title of that movie just came back to me. I found a full version of it on YouTube and watched it again about three months prior to the exhibition. Frankly, I was shocked as to how similar my life had paralleled Tina’s …. That became the premise of the show. I suppose at some point in the 70′ s was when I must have seen it originally…
I’ve been interested in talking to you about the 6th street container show for a while now. Recently, I saw the film and was struck with how relevant it remains. When I was in high school there were films which influence my perceptions of the future. How I would visualize my present self. What strikes me about “Diary of a Mad House Wife” is how little has changed in that domestic construct. Even his the film ended, with people providing there criticism of her story. I can see these conversations continuing today. What direction would you like this domestic conversation to continue?
Changing old habits, stereotypes and traditions is often difficult. Generations of thought trickle down through generations. Moving forward, we need to question age old societal and religious traditions pertaining to women. Isn’t it wonderful that we now see definitions of family life very differently from not that long ago. Balancing work and family life in the home continues to improve. Expectations of responsibilities are now beginning to shift. Although child care and equal pay for women are, for the most part, in the beginning stages in most work environments, choices for women are improving tremendously.
How we view our lives at home continues to be a work in progress. Only time will tell where we land with this. How and where we conduct our professional lives may end up being in our home environments – in the not so distant future. Going to an ” office”, may soon become a practice of the past. How and where our children learn could look quite different 200 years from now. The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men (as originally described by the feminists in the 70’s) – is key to where women end up in the future. I feel we need to embrace some of the wonderful traditions integrating them with the vision of a future based on equality and mutual respect in and out of our homes.
I remember when you spoke at MOCA for their Feminist and Queer Art talk you mentioned perceptions between men and women in terms of time. It was in reference this particular piece in the exhibition. I found it to be a highlight in the discussion. What traditions do you feel could be integrated?
Self Portrait, 2015
Over the years I have worked on self-portraits in a variety of mediums. Some can be seen now at the Laundromat Art Space in a show Me, Me, Me. The Self Portraits With Polka Dots was a series I took from a series of portraits of myself over a period of 15 years. I’ve always enjoyed the concept of time and aging. “Self Portrait 2015” is the latest Self Portrait I’ve worked on.
Our perception of who we are and how we identify ourselves is created through a number of ways: How we grew up in our homes and what we were taught by our parents, through society’s influence, and through our own personal experiences. In the piece,”Self Portrait 2015” the association of breasts and hair to viewing women as sexual objects and how we categorize beauty, or in this case, the fading of beauty. I would guess to say, is quite obvious to the viewer. The way the piece is interpreted by each individual will depend on where they and those that surround them fit into the picture. On a personal level, dealing with aging and its consequences both physically and socially is the serious side of this humorous “poking fun at myself” piece.
The breakdown of the traditional admiration and respect for the older people in our youth driven society, can make aging that much more difficult for both men and women. The relevance and respect of family, with both its younger and older members, is a tradition we need to integrate into our future.