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  • The Ground
  • Mira Schor (bio)

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Figure 1.

Mira Schor, The work has to be …, 2013. Oil on linen, 18 × 30 in.

The work has to be

To say that the work has to be an expression of who I am, at any minute, is to point to a very subjective criterion and would indicate a very subjective art practice. That is something that has been frowned upon in certain influential circles in the art world since at least the 1980s, in the years of the “death of the author,” although it could be argued that any work, even the most deliberately distanced and impersonal, in fact perhaps especially work for which claims of rigorous objectivity are made, is still an expression of who the artist is at that minute.

Every artist works within a number of contexts and territories, so that “this minute” is also the cultural moment—a network of discourses, histories, and ideologies that are always at stake. [End Page 320]

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Figure 2.

Mira Schor, The Ground, 2013. Ink and gesso on tracing paper, 18 × 30 in.

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Figure 3.

Mira Schor, The Ground, 2013. Ink, oil, and gesso on linen, 12 × 16 in.

[End Page 321]

Right this minute, I am occupied with the ground. As a painter, I work with figure and ground, the contrapuntal relational relation that has long been under attack, so that the ground is always already ideological, a discursive field upon which we operate, a field occupied by often antithetical forces. The ground is also a given of our daily existence, the very surface we walk on and are buried within. My recent paintings are organized and installed according to the grass or cement demarcation line between sky and earth, austerity and fertility, conformism and experimentation, public and private.

These paintings present a flat ground upon which a schematically drawn figure rests, sleeps, reads, thinks, in a diagrammatic relation to nature and theory. The figure is an avatar of self, thus the figure, “me,” is a she, but at an age where one is no longer a “woman” in relation to the desire of the generic male gaze. This point at which a woman is invisible but seeing is an interesting moment, and one that interested me even before I became a woman who isn’t seen—a woman who’s over forty, whom most people don’t look at in the street anymore. No longer the bleeding body, she is liberated to herself become the gaze. She is a walking pair of eyeglasses, and rays of vision move reciprocally between her and the world. She is at once an eight-year-old girl, observing the world with fresh joy, and Miss Marple, the fluffy little old lady with a mind like a steel trap who sees the darkness below the surface of civilized society.

Right this minute, the avatar’s anonymous embodiment of “me,” the artist and writer Mira Schor engaged in a lifelong narrative project of bringing the experience of living inside a female body—with a mind—into high art in as intact a form as possible, demands that the “I” who will continue to speak here, in this text, must do so in the form of stories told in the third person, as “she,” “the artist,” “the figure,” because she has spoken enough in the first person. Now she desires interpretation and exegesis; she does not want to be the only person speaking, but if she is, she must do so as an other. [End Page 322]

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Figure 4.

Mira Schor, Fallow Field 2, 2012. Oil and ink on gesso on linen, 14 × 18 in.

Fallow Field

One summer the artist reads Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (2004). It’s a gripping tale about how the tradition of the commons and other folk experience–based crafts and practices that had developed in the medieval period were forcibly, often violently, eliminated and suppressed as part of the transition from late feudalism to early capitalism...


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pp. 320-332
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