KISS OFF part one (August 25-September 27, 2014 at Linfield College in McMinnville, OR) is an endurance performance dealing with my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and my love of color and all things makeup. I own exactly 40 tubes of lipstick (I am a smoker so I rarely wear the stuff). I am at heart a hoarder. I love color but have never been able to paint in a conventional manner. Up to this point I have used my face as a canvas. Mass media told me to do it after all! For this performance I will attempt to use 20 of my lipsticks (ten per 100×63 inch canvas). Each day I work I will apply lipstick and kiss the canvas until the one tube is depleted. (KISS OFF part two TBA) This is my first public endurance performance since my senior thesis work at Linfield College during the 1998-1999 school year. It is a return to a time in my life where I was more willing to be public. I am pleased to be doing this performance in the Nils Lou Memorial Gallery as Nils was my art grandpappy.
I love tarting myself up for my own pleasure and for the public though I am quite reclusive and rarely engage in this activity. There are design and expression elements in the act. There is also power. This work, for me, is not a feminist piece in the more obvious and traditional senses implied by the action, but rather a symbolic cleansing of objects. The endurance performance and repetitive activity required within are indulging a part of my OCD, whereas the disposal of said objects eschews it. I am already plotting certain re-acquisitions.
I ask the viewer to look at the act itself—the constant making oneself up physically, then kissing it away. I will never stop presenting myself to the world in whatever way I see fit, knowing that much of my self-presentation is copied and copy-able from media imagery of women. I love/hate this phenomenon but love wins every time. The collecting of color through such charged objects by way of my OCD certainly demonstrates what our culture has deemed desirable for women AND men. I have been taken hook, line and sinker.
KISS OFF is also about failure, a concept deep in the heart of all of my work. This project was hatched quickly and the show came even quicker still. It is bringing my usually private endurance performance activities into the public sphere. I don’t know the end to this story though there is the lofty ideal. Physical limitations may win out before my time is up. It’s a wait and see sort of thing. Failure in art is often just masked success. Process is the product.
This performance taught me a lot about my practice: my shortcomings and successes. The work was about the performance itself but due to the rapid way in which the show happened, I still made objects! And I found myself incredibly attached to said objects. In this case, the objects are huge and are not able to be finished. The canvases sit in my garage half varnished. The white space is secure but the lipstick itself will never cure. Live and learn. My only options to “preserve” the objects will melt or smear the lipstick prints.
I consider all of my work to be endurance performance and there is always an end product to be sure. This feels like a liminal space for me. Hopefully this is a transition piece to more purely performative and visceral acts. If I do move to more performative acts, I must learn to document properly. The documentation for this piece was utter failure but the work was about the act and not the documents of marks on a canvas. It was about interacting with the students and faculty of the college. It was about re-emergence.
I still have over 20 tubes of lipstick (remember this was Part One) so I have some ideas about how to make the performance better. Ideally, I would love a gallery space so I could KISS OFF onto a glossy painted wall that I could scrub down after, leaving no remnants of the work. This methodology was not in my mind until the performance was underway and there would not have been enough time or help to prep, so I did it with canvases instead.
Video documentation also seems essential to this performance but I unfortunately had no one to video the work. In the future, I want to have Part Two with some video footage because it will show the motion and rhythm of the piece. Walking to the mirror next to the canvas, applying lipstick, then selecting a spot to kiss. The audio of this piece was not merely all the playlists that I posted each day but also a kind of smacking as I kissed. This was something that pleasantly surprised me and kept me in the moment.
KISS OFF Part One has some definite ties to my other work besides the obvious OCD approach. It is a perfect example of my showboat or shipwreck mind. This of course was showboat. But shipwreck is present at the same time, though perhaps only to me. Also it bares a resemblance to latch-hook self-portraiture I completed in 2011. Constantly looking at oneself in the mirror for 5-7 hours a day (in the case of KISS OFF) brings up the subject of narcissism and also plays with it. Flaws become visible early on in the game. The act of applying lipstick over and over and watching myself do it made me see things about myself both physically and mentally. Mirror not even required.
All in all, KISS OFF Part One, with its successes and failures taught me to think in new ways and to create in new ways and to keep an open mind about the “product”. I want to thank: Linfield College for hosting me, Cris Moss, Dr. Brian Winkenweder, Ron Mills and Laura Johnson for their enduring support. Also a huge thank you to Chris Gander for making the smoothest canvases to kiss on. And finally Evan Phillips for the support and photo help.