form & concept, Santa Fe
November 24, 2017 – February 18, 2018
Alert arts community members may remember Thais Mather as one-third of the Victory Grrrls, who performed at form & concept earlier this year as part of the gallery’s programming around an event featuring feminist pioneer artist Judy Chicago. I’ve been keeping my eye on for this artist ever since her husband and fellow artist, Todd Ryan White, turned me onto her work several years back.
The gallery press release calls Mather’s the installation and programming “monumental,” adding that “hundreds of [her] artworks … will fill form & concept’s ground floor, tracing thousands of years of natural and human history.”
The premise of her exhibition, says Mather, is that despite evidence to the contrary, we are not facing an apocalyptic end of the world as we know it. Rather, we are entering into a whole new era of cultural, political, and environmental revolution as women begin to take their place in a post-colonial world. For the artist, even the notion of a solo exhibition reflects a patriarchal past. “Everything [I] create is influenced by other artists, by mentors, by relationships, by the music and literature [I] adore,” Mather says. She will be collaborating with several other artists in her performances, and finds that the viewer is equally as important in constructing the artworks’ meaning through their ongoing experiences, the dialogue that is stimulated by those experiences, and the simple evolution of time.
I was able to ask Mather a few questions about her current exhibition, and here, in part, is what she had to tell me.
On how she became an artist, and the importance of being introverted:
“I never had a transitional period into art; I knew from the time I could talk it was what I wanted and needed to do, to survive and to thrive. I was a shy little kid, and am still a shy adult, so I have always used my imagination to draw from experience and try to find something useful. I am introverted, which surprises a lot of people—because I have to live this extremely extroverted life as an arts professional. Art gives me the excuse I need to go inward and get the energy I need from my own time and process.”
On her process:
“The process truly is the product for me. I think a lot of artists feel that making the work is the work… It is a continuum of your own intellectual explorations and visual culture—and it never ends. I take a lot of comfort in those relationships I get to communicate through symbol and process.”
On the viewer as collaborator:
“The audience imparts what they find in the work. And so the process continues. I want my audience to have their own experience without guiding the conversation, but I will say that I push the limits of what I know.”
On collaborating with her media:
“I tried not to manipulate any material beyond what it was teaching me. I worked in clay and let the clay converse with me; I worked in watercolor and we talked; I didn’t fight. I just spent time and got lost and found in the process. In the processes I wasn’t familiar with, I stayed humble and listened. I read about what I thought the work was teaching—historically, sociologically, and spiritually. I listened and I talked. And we worked it out—the materials and I. What I wanted from myself, from the materials, and from the audience and the greater world, is a conversation about what we can become. A conversation about a magical world and universe. Woman and her Symbols. Not controlling and worrying, but doing what feels good; while doing what is right.”
On what matters to her:
“That’s pretty tough to nail down. As an artist, what matters to me is the inward/outward cycle of making. In trying to use the way I critically think of the world (and myself), I make that process my friend—we sit by the fire together. I also find social change important in work, trying to change and challenge my audience and myself… We are learning, we are failing, and sometimes we get it right. Mostly I hope we can think about the rest of the world—not just humanity, but the planet. 200,000 years is a short time within a four-billion-year-old process. I just keep looking and asking, and knowing very little in return. It feels good, so I just keep doing it.”