2023 // Artist statement

Miranda Holmes (b. 1994) is an artist currently living in Columbus, Ohio.

Through drawing and painting, I explore the ways in which people change, including how cultural environments shift our behaviors over time. Drawing from photos of everyday life, I play the line between representation and abstraction in my depictions of people and commonplace objects such as dinner tables, books, and furniture. Using transparent films of oil and acrylic paint, I layer shapes and lines within the contours of my figures. These abstract elements are sometimes lifted from the environment around them, such as the grid formed by a bookshelf, and sometimes they are left ambiguous, like a memory whose precise origins have been lost. By combining recognizable elements and unknown parts, I depict how memories and formed habits lodge within our bodies in ways we cannot always understand. This accrual of learned behaviors shifts our sense of reality and our sense of self.

My work is motivated by queer feminist theories and practices that inform my representations of women’s bodies and inner lives. An underlying exploration in this work is that of control, namely the ways in which the systems of patriarchy, racism, and capitalism manipulate women, trans, and non-binary peoples’ bodies. I consider how these systems redirect these bodies, force them into positions to survive the world. Queer feminists seek other ways of being in the world that have been invalidated by strict structures. 

Ambiguity is important to my practice just as openness of being is foundational to queer feminists. I am invested in making work that asks viewers to wonder about the inner lives of the people I paint and interpret them as they see the world, not just how I see it. My work does not expose any blatant message; rather, it asks questions about how we know what we know.

Ultimately, our bodies are porous entities through which the world seeps in and out; we cannot always control how we change. My painting, Holding, envisions someone grasping a spirit-like body, or a nervous system. We can imagine and mourn the people we did not become, and we can hold space for the possibility of that person to still always emerge. My work embraces both the known and the unknown, turning reality ephemeral and imagination concrete.

2022 // Thoughts: Observation / Absorption 

My work is in many ways an exploration of control, namely the ways in which the systems of patriarchy, racism, and capitalism manipulate women, trans, and non-binary peoples’ bodies. I consider how these systems redirect these bodies, force them into positions to survive the world. I find myself thinking about what I and others would be like – what choices we would make, where we would go, who we would love – if not for the ingrained boundaries wrapped tightly around our bodies. I wonder about how many definitions a body must absorb before it embodies that definition, fits squarely into a category.

What the body absorbs, feels, moves, how it acts and persists – these will all look different depending on the intersectional identities and experiences of that body. I address these various intersections, including but not limited to gender, sexuality, class, race, and disability, and I leave space for the speculative. Much of the way culture shapes bodies, anybody, is unknown. Yet, cultural conditioning establishes its power from people accepting stories of the way things are, an agreed upon reality. My work questions the stories that uphold hegemony, a form of bodily control, as the common reality that we participate in and help shape.

2021 // I bend my back back

I bend my back and pose. Hold.
My back is bent back. I bent back. Held it. Hold it.
Held it in my hands. Held liquid in my cupped hands and felt it drip through.
It dripped through the cracks in my hand cup.
Felt the cup holding liquid in my hands.
The hand cupped me.
It cupped my bottom and I bent back.
Backed up and fell back and held it.
Held the cup bottom up. The liquid fell out and my back bent.
I held it back.
I hold it back.
I bend my back back.

            I find myself in a backbend. I wonder how I arrived in that position. The pose. I am exhausted but I hold it. In what position does my exhausted body find itself and what are the powers that bent me there? I was overpowered. I am empowered. I have the power to bend back. I can. I can. What powers do I uphold in my empowering backbend?

            My work contends with the body in relationship with the demands of capitalistic production, the strains of high performance culture, and the constraints of patriarchal, white supremacist, and heteronormative structures. How is the body asked to perform under systems whose mechanisms require draining bodies? The system drains the liquid from the body and lubricates its system. Makes it faster, smoother, more efficient, more demanding of more fluid bodies. Can the body perform under these conditions? How does it process these conditions and reperform them? 

            While my work is in conversation with neoliberalist feminism, which grows out of a white feminist allegiance to racial supremacy and to capitalism, the bodies in my work skim identity and skin the internalized. Working from quick gestural figure drawings I make observing woman-identifying bodies in yoga poses or exercise positions, I build up layers in my paintings that both reference the body and evade representation. The paintings provide moments of clarity – the strain of a perpetual backbend teases recognition – and in the next moment twist away from capture of the gaze. My work contends with the space between the desire to perform under current conditions (to hold a plank, to crunch for a deadline, to tighten a grip) and the desire to escape (to refuse sight, to refuse to work, to collapse, to imagine other ways of looking, of being).

            Being an oil painting, the body finds itself labeled Figure. Female Figure. Boxed in, rendered in a rectangle, it leaks into its environment, labeled Ground. The Figure/Ground is in a relationship, and it is complicated. How is Figure (“subject”) ever separate from Ground (“object”, “environment”, “condition”) when Ground dictates the position of Figure? Figure’s body position, work position, favorite sex position. What composes Ground? Objects that allow Figure to stretch itself to its limits – a rectangular yoga mat, a linear exercise band, a screen imposing instructions – seep in and out of Figure, build it, break it. The edge of a doorway becomes an extended arm that spans background and foreground. How is Figure complicit in its own making and unmaking?  Where does Figure perform Figure? How does the performance—the held position, the pose – fracture Figure? When does Ground have Figure’s back? Figure is bent back. Bent back. Bent back.


Self Expansion, Nov 2020

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