Curator: Nuala Clark
In August 2008, I was invited to exhibit at the Boltax Gallery on Shelter Island two of my Jerusalem Scrolls in a show entitled Border Walls curated by Nuala Clark. An Irish artist living then in New York, Clark had assembled the works of six women artists whose lives have been infused with the presence of border walls, from the Republic of Ireland, Sama Alshaibi of Iraqi and Palestinian origin living in Arizona, Rita Duffy from Belfast, Consuelo Jimenez Underwood of Mexican origin living in San Diego, Larissa Sansour, a Palestinian living in Denmark.
Shelter Island is a peaceful and beautiful little island whose only borders seemed to delimited by the sea till I caught sight of a man holding in front of a group of foreign workers, probably of Mexican origin, a sign reading: “When they jumped the fence, they broke the law.” This sign written in large red letters boosted by the American flag brought forth invisible and distant borders which were not the only invisible walls to be erected during my stay on this pleasant island. My visit on the island ended with a stopover at the Pollock-Krasner house and studio in The Springs and to the Green River Cemetery where the couple is buried. More than the house and the studio transformed today into a museum withholding their ghostly presence, it was the latter that made me wonder about yet other invisible boundaries related this time to gender within the structure of art history.
Looking at Pollock’s majestic boulder marking his grave neighboring that of Krasner’s modest boulder attested to the maintenance of a hierarchy reminiscent of his position in art history. Indeed, who had ever taught me in art school about the existence of Lee Krasner, whose art influenced her partner’s as I was to discover in an article by Ann Gibson published in Woman’s Art Journal. Krasner was one of the two first American painters, together with Ad Reinhardt, to work totally abstractly before World War II and “Although, writes Gibson, “Mrs. Pollock,” as most reviewer called her, painted exemplary Abstract Expressionist paintings in the 1940’s, she was cast (and often permitted herself to be cast) in a supporting role.’ A role I felt which was still echoed in Pollock, the film directed by Ed Harris in 2000.
This trip so far away from the border walls I had photographed in Jerusalem had made me come to realise once more that borders need not be walls at all and that they can partake various and subtle disguises.