Intersectionality: Axes of Power

Axes of Power, 72

Axes of Power, 72″x56″, acrylic on canvas, 2013

This large painting will be featured in April 2014 at a conference in Vancouver, where I’m exhibiting my Intersectionality series.  It uses political and statistical symbols to explore some personal questions:

Why do I enjoy privilege and success in this capitalist democracy, somehow escaping the typical oppressions of gender-variant women and bisexual people?  Why do I encounter social marginalization that can’t be explained by being in some identity group?

The darker background symbolizes various political economies: royalty, democracy, militarism, capitalism, industrialism, agricultural feudalism, hippie communes, communist totalitarianism, violent chaos, and unorganized subsistence.

The horizontal black axis indicates the amount of group control while the vertical black axis indicates the amount of individual freedom.

The light-coloured foreground is a graph (suggesting a statistical factor-analysis plot) of people within those societies:  what factors determine whether an individual is influential or insignificant?

The near-horizontal white line shows the trend that many individuals are privileged or oppressed according to the power of the demographic and identity groups that the individual belongs to.

The white line at a 45-degree angle shows another cluster of people: those who succeed or fail according to their own capabilities and efforts, regardless of their demographics.

Some people are affected by a combination of the demographic and individual factors, so they float away from either cluster.

There is a quotation by Michel Feher, from an art-theory book, collaged into the painting: “Defining them as audiences strictly in terms of gender, ethnicity or region is precisely the conceptual problem.  In fact the artificial definition of communities that are divided among themselves is the conceptual disease of the whole left post-modernist moment.”