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Auckland Art Gallery

Panel Discussion: Seeing the Self: Woman Artists depicts themselves

With artists Dame Robin White, Yvonne Todd and Claudia Kogachi

This panel discussion was stimulated by the exhibitions Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: Art and Life in Modern Mexico and Robin White: Te Whanaketanga | Something is Happening Here. Both include woman artists painting about people and their environments, relationships, and depicting their intimate journeys.

Dame Robin White was wonderful to listen to, quite quirky and quite funny. What an incredible life of art she has had as a woman and a mother.

She discussed her self-portraits, some depicting herself just before having her first child and others when she was in the midst of motherhood in Kiribas.

She described how she prefers to create composite images, with two things stitched together, ie a self- portrait with a familiar landscape.

She talked about her self-portrait where she depicts herself sombre and serious, looking staunch, where she wanted to say " I am a woman, I am capable " -she stated that she feels the power that woman can have to influence attitudes is very significant.

Yvonne Todd showed us alot of never before seen self- portraits, some really early ones where she was in her early twenties. She discussed how she explored alot of different tropes when she was younger, trying to work out what she wanted to say. She talked alot about her photos being 'unadorned', and how she felt that the likes of Cindy Sherman had kind of taken the 'adorned' space in her world. Yvonne also showed us a number of works where she is heavily pregnant or carrying one of her children in the photo. There was a reference made to Paula Modersohn-Becker ( who I understand was the first woman painter to paint herself naked and pregnant!)

I find it really interesting that as woman- motherhood seems to imprint on our lives in so many ways. Both Robin White and Yvonne Todd pregnancy and children comes out in their work as artists.

Claudia Kogachi, a younger woman artist, described her first works as being about her relationship with her mother. They have now progressed to being about her relationship with her partner. She depicts herself into characters from movies that she identifies with or would like to be ie Suki from Fast and Furious, or Mikaela from Transformers, played by Megan Fox. Claudia also makes large rugs which we saw in ArtSpace Gallery in 2021, depicting herself fulfilling different roles in society.

Woman painting themselves, their lives, their relationships, from their own feminist perspective, other artists in my neighbourhood, like me, finding their voice through their practice.


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