I COULD SEE EVERYTHING
An Interview with Margaux Williamson: January 25th, 2015
Margaux Williamson presents an incredible oeuvre of brutally honest, beautiful, yet seemingly grimy paintings. I Could See Everything, perhaps was a momentary or lengthy gift of sight, providing Williamson with all of life's most complex questions. But has passed, as everything does? The remains, in this case, follow that of cyclicality, these ashes are left to build something new. The act of creating/channeling is the gift to all generations to come.
Williamson’s paintings reveal a sort of battle with fantasy and reality and sometimes depict her, sometimes others, lost in the woods, dreaming on the couch, painting in the kitchen showing Williamson as a romantic artist striving to find an image for a generation and the next.
Tussle: What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
Margaux Williamson: That's a large question. "Accomplish" is an interesting word choice. Probably like most artists, I'm very basically interested in seeing if it's possible to make/ find/ rearrange meaning.
I'm interested in communicating, to myself and with others, in the unusual and fruitful way you can with art.
In terms of accomplishments related to being an "artist of action", I hope and desire that art can create movement in the world outside of the art world, whether it's mine or others' art.
T: How would you describe your style, life and art?
MW: For a long time, I've thought a lot about Marcel Duchamp's readymades -- what is there already/ what one can find/ how to see the same things in new ways. I guess you could call that a style. A lazy style. I've also thought a lot about Agnes Varda's approach to filmmaking. Mainly this one thing I heard her talk about years ago. I guess cause she had a young family, she was pretty house-bound. But that in her backyard, there was an electrical outlet and she had a giant blue 90 meter electrical cord. She said she could make anything within a 90 meter diameter around her house. I love that idea, born out of limitation, of what you can find, what you can do within a 90 meter diameter. There is something very pleasurable and purposeful about that -- and something hopeful.
The hopeful part about both Duchamp's readymades and Varda's electrical cord is that though functional limitations, the less obvious elements within the limitations become important and valuable. That's a very relaxing style to have.
T: Do you know yourself? Have you become what you are meant to be?
MW: I don't really think in those terms. I find thinking about myself pretty distracting and in any case wouldn't be able to get my head around ideas of destiny or what any of us were meant to be so specifically. Though it's a pleasurable idea that there are such slots.
My choices are nearly entirely dictated by what makes me feel less depressed or more filled with the feeling of possibility that something good can still come -- or the energy to make something good can still come. It's an easy path to follow, but definitely not such a stable-looking career path. I can imagine having a clear idea of where I'm supposed to go or what I'm supposed to be would be a bit exhausting in blocking or tangling up some of that very helpful movement.
But in terms of self-improvement, I try to be self-conscious enough so that I'm not a total bore or asshole to those around me -- whether it works or not. But on the other side, I find the villainous role-model of the Larry David character on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" very relaxing, where he doesn't feel so bad about being a total bore or asshole to those poor people around him.
T: How do you differentiate between feelings and images that come from memories or those that come from dreams.
MW: Those things have equal weight for me - things my mind experienced. It's one of the things I like best about people, that our brains often get those things wrong, sometimes to get them more right, that we all can't help but to tell stories. It can sometimes be exhausting and meaningless, the repetition and persistence of what comes to the front of our minds. But sometimes it can be lucky and directive and big.
T: There is an apocalyptic quality to your work, are you conscious of that?
MW: Yes. I really related to, for instance, the fantasy of the world ending in Lars Von Triers "Melancholia". I also like the fantasies in, for instance, some of Quentin Tarantino recent work, like the successful murders of a slave-owner or Hitler. I love those extreme fantasies of change, I love seeing them in others -- fantasies whether for a (horrible tragic) ending to suffering or for a change that rearranges the world to be a better place. I think they come from the same instinct, but one comes from exhaustion and the other from, let's say, near-delusional optimism.
T: Is the subject of your paintings predominately you?
MW: No. I use myself to tell the most direct and basic narrative -- the narrative being, I am a painter trying very hard to do something in paint. I like that position in culture and politics, where it is the most helpful thing to be clear and honest about where we're standing in order to show more simply what we see from there. But when I think of my work, I really see everything that I see when I look out, much more so than looking in.
T: In reference to the painting, we loved the world and the things in the world, what has upset you so much? I feel like there is a definite look of concern in your eye, may you expand? I feel like this image could be a pinnacle point?
MW: I probably wouldn't have necessarily said or thought there was concern in my eyes, in fact I've had a few people go the other way and ask if those were crocodile tears. I see the face in the painting as being pretty stoic. I was thinking of those paintings, the religious Christian paintings of saints, faces somehow unmoved, but knowingly in ecstasy or pain, with giant dollops of tears coming down.
But that painting came from a phrase that got stuck in my head, "We loved the world and the things in the world" which my brain rearranged and then wouldn't let go from the biblical quote "Do not love the world or the things in the world." The biblical quote goes on... "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
I hated that idea, which to me sounds like ignoring both the suffering and the beauty of the world in order to have higher ideals. It is an idea of virtuous abandonment. It seems cruel and also a waste to not taking responsibility (or pleasure) for all the real things around you.
Using my face was just an instinct, or again, the most basic thing I could do. A bit of defiance to love the good and the bad -- an insistence, or a reminder, to be present rather than in a fantasy.