the nature of

Portrait of Gareth Thomas, 2011, woven tapestry, 18 cms H X 15 cms W, cotton, woollen, synthetic wefts.

Artist statement for my entry in a new tapestry competition honouring the late Kate Derum: “I knew Kate Derum from many tapestry events. I experienced her work as a unique language, an intense personal expression. Similarly, my work, Portrait of Gareth Thomas, derives from many personal issues. GT was the first Welsh rugby player to declare his homosexuality. My work celebrates his heroic struggle to live naturally, despite societal prejudice and stereotypes concerning masculinity and the expression of strength, particularly that gay communities are perverse and unnatural. My portrait uses flows and continuities of shapes and colours to evoke the naturalness of gay sensibility. Without wishing to construct a gay essentialism, I would suggest, as the gay theoretician Bagemihl has done in his work Biological Exuberance, that reflection, intuition, strength together contribute to the natural wildness of human nature in all its wondrous variegation. On many levels my work identifies with ecological concerns. This portrait challenges the viewer to experience naturalness in the highly stylised medium of woven figured cloth.”

The fact that asserting Gareth Thomas’ right to self definition exposes me to the accusation by christian fundamentalists to social engineering is patently absurd. We use phrases like essentialism, yet any historian of recent events can tell of abrupt schemes of social planning put in place during and after World War 2. Because men went to war then, women worked difficult physical jobs in munitions factories in the absence of their menfolk. When peace was declared, women returned to domestic duties. Lest their recent freedoms and role reversals were too difficult to relinquish, a major media campaign was put in place, the re-feminisation of women in the 1950’s. Social engineering at its finest: males once again dominated the landscape.

Even as we currently argue about the naturalness of same-sex relationships the above situation indicates how circumstances dictate identity and the contemporary notion of the natural. By contrast, conservatives wage the most absurd views: polygamy can only be resisted by maintaining the conventional definition of marriage. Otherwise the floodgates will open: men will marry with children or their dog. The mind boggles.


About anton veenstra

tapestry weaver, fibre artist, gay/qr activist, multiculturalist
This entry was posted in Bagemihl, Biological Exuberance, ecological concerns, essentialism, fibre, finished work, gender identity, Kate Derum, narrative, personal belief, tapestry. Bookmark the permalink.

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