We Made BEDSHIRTS! Blair Saxon-Hill & Hayley Barker & Antonia Pinter
All are XXL
beddrawing by Hayley Barker
essay by Blair Saxon-Hill
designed by Antonia Pinter
hand-dyed & printed by Alex Seastrom in LA
The essay on the back of the shirt reads:
HAYLEY BARKER: 13 Paintings and some beddrawings
I always wanted to name something. Not a child, more avant-garde than that. Combines. A readymade. And then she did it. Hayley Barker started calling them beddrawings.
Beddrawing names a condition of the artist’s body that is material to the works’ becoming—lying down or nearly at rest, not dreaming but in a site of dreams. Bed is a place inhabited by illness, sex, waking, and retirement in all its meanings. These ways of being in bed serve as our bridge or boat between life and death. Barker elects to fall outside of time and the definitive—in bed on paper.
These drawings are an intentional performance of awakening. Explicating the importance of the female artist body and her vagina in form and politic. Distinctly, Barker makes these performance documents undifferentiated sites of consciousness—inviting spiritual realms to her rising.
The self in bed is a phenomenological self and an unassembled self. The beddrawings hold an otherwise unattainable purity of presence. Barker transcribes linguistic outcomes and visions from her Los Angeles based shamanic meditations. She writes words such as, “Friday, YEAH”, “Breaker Breaker”, “Vitality Leak”, “Let Me”, “AMPM” and “Free This Sorrow.” Her morning practice invites the mind to be uninhibited and release concerns of health, labor, saccharin horror, illness, love, friendship, capacity, news, and information—the now.
Jewel-like forms and semiprecious words are slipped from the meditative bezel of her waking and directed into Barker’s drawings and paintings.
Can a beddrawing be made out of bed? I must sleep in my studio in order to finish a body of work. Barker is known to sleep in her studio too. We have discussed the basics on the phone—clean underwear, arrowroot for oily hair, and how being feral is essential to the evolution of commitment. So I’m not really sure that the beddrawings aren’t sometimes made in the studio, maybe on the studio couch or bedded down on the floor after kicking the tools of oil painting aside.
Along with the evolution of the beddrawings came the dimly lit Instagram posts. Photographed at an angle, occasionally exposing the bumps of her knees under the covers, she assures us, that yes, indeed, these were drawn in bed and the sun hasn’t risen yet—it’s morning. These images are frequently posted with the hashtags #thewrongpen, #thewrongpaper. Barker is emphasizing the pleasure derived from medium—valuing the physical realm as much as what is intuited, felt and unseen. And in fact, the wrong paper or pen at times, are in service of the paintings.
Barker’s energetic works maintain a central composition; a reflection—a woman—she gazes outward or in towards us from the page. A guide. It reads as having been divined. And yet, we are at once reminded of Barker’s hand in its giddy quality, witnessing her play against the tooth of the paper; like a cat batting a mouse. Lines curve inward, moving from petal to spiral. They quiver, dot, dash, push and “x” before starring here and later on panel. Contorting her hand, Barker annunciates pleasure. Her allover marks are often gentle—even when her figure’s eyes and mouth are possessed with an inaudible answer and outrage. I ask her, “Where are they angry?” She says, “In the mouths.”
This is not a poem on a bedshirt. Presented in this exhibition is a series of intimate works on panel each produced in oil, pastel and color pencil. Thirteen paintings; I guessed that this was a nod to a modernist titling convention. When I asked, Barker said, “Thirteen is unlucky, cursed, damned, and fated to suffer.” Following with, “I don’t really believe in that.” Stating that she instead centers her belief on inherent “goodness and forgiveness.” In paint we see, “don’t mourn your darkness” and “we gunna do it my way this time” upholding joy as a contemporary shorthand for an ethic of survival and female power in perpetuity. These contradictions between expressed grace, strength and strife make these 13 paintings so utterly becoming not only in execution but also in their savvy to the manner of our daily currency.
Barker published a book in 2017 entitled, Vintage Self Help, serving a raw and poetic account of the relation between her horrific, and life-threatening experiences released from her body and history, and the impact of those events on her practice. Today, Barker stands outside the Friday of our cultural thirteen. Now supporting herself against the many blows of our national trauma, she looks in and out to spirits. We face her face and yet we are not fully enabled to see. She determines a flatness that reflects on perception itself. Fielding edges, it is she that will return to bed like a scribe vetting pen and paper as she does the morning.
(c) 2018 Blair Saxon-Hill
(c) 2018 Blair Saxon-Hill