ON DISPLAY | A CONVERSATION WITH ANGELA FRALEIGH
Painter and installation artist Angela Fraleigh discusses how gender and power dynamics inspire her artwork, and her quest to discover hidden feminine histories.
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Today the Raw and Radical “On Display” podcast welcomes Angela Fraleigh, an oil painter and installation artist, to discuss the role of feminism and power dynamics in her work, her thoughts on manifesting our own realities, and her interest in uncovering hidden feminist-focused histories.
Angela’s work was described by one museum curator as creating “utopic provocations of … counter or oppositional narratives that allow us to imagine different pasts and different futures.” One way she creates these narratives is with large scale paintings that immerse the viewer in her “feminine utopian” vision.
“We’re forced to see intricacies of body language at that kind of scale,” she says. “I’ve elevated these figures … so that they kind of loom over us in a much more kind of powerful way. It’s hard to consume them in the same way you would if it were at that smaller easel painting scale.”
The idea that our realities are created from our thoughts is a powerful influence on Angela’s work. She sees the current political climate and events as a manifestation of our underlying thoughts, but also as a powerful opportunity for purging and change, particularly as it relates to her art.
“Rather than focusing on the stuff I don’t want, I’m focusing on what I do want. And what I do want are these big utopian feminist societies that are much more nurturing and, not maternal, but … where people feel comfortable and safe to create the world they want to live in,” she says.
Angela also discusses how gender and power dynamics are conveyed through her work and influence her subject matter. She’s currently focused on the invisible histories of women in the arts. Her recent exhibition at the Edward Hopper House Museum focused on the women in Edward Hopper’s work, but in particular on the role of his wife “Jo,” an accomplished painter in her own right but who was ultimately eclipsed by her husband.
“What I found interesting is ... she was posing for all these paintings but they were never of ‘her,’ they were always a stand in for a woman,” she says. “So ... this notion of her kind of being seen through, even when she’s being stared at ... I wanted to play with that idea and how that relates to contemporary concerns for women and women artists of today.”
Angela also touches on how parenthood has impacted her art practice. She says she’s very lucky that she can afford daycare and that both her mother and her partner are supportive and open to sharing the childcare load, but it still requires pre-planning to the time to create art.
“I have to cram a bunch of work into one daycare day,” she says. “I’ve learned to be really efficient with my time. I don’t overthink things as much because there’s just no time to do that… which is a blessing.”
Angela’s advice for other artists is that leaning into and supporting one another is incredibly important. She feels that without doing that, we can’t reshape our thought processes and society into a more nurturing environment for our creativity.
“I think that the patriarchal structure that we’ve all kind of been seduced by throughout our lives... [there’s] this sense that [it’s] like a ladder that you can climb and that you won’t really be happy until you get to whichever rung you’re at,” she says. “And then you’ll look around and then you’ll want more, and that’s okay! That’s great! But it’s the waiting to be happy part that’s not okay.”