Quite possibly one of the most photographed, boomeranged, instagrammed, snapped--I could go on--installations at SHE BENDS, San Francisco edition, was Sarah Blood’s I’m So Fucking Tired. Unapologetically decorated with gaudy, gold sequins, Sarah’s “sign” beautifully declares “TA-DA!” in the artist’s handwriting, loudly accentuated by electric pink, while a fan, decorated with matching gold streamers, oscillates in front of it, its breeze causing the sequins to dance and ripple around the neon text.
Glamour aside, at the root of I’m So Fucking Tired, is a bubbling frustration with the prevalence and gender inequality. At the time of its creation, Blood had been reading Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own and mulling over ideas surrounding women’s place in the world, their rights and social expectations in contemporary America, and noted that not a lot had changed in 100 years; “It’s ridiculous that we can put a human on the moon but we can’t pay women the same as a man, or give her full autonomy of her own body.” Blood points out. A performance by Diana Ross for the Brit Awards watched by Blood 20 years earlier, came back into focus. Ross performed her hit, “Upside Down”, with emerging British musician Jamiroquai for a British music awards show. In the performance, Ross wears a stunning sequined dress while dancing in front of a large fan, her hair billowing, her male counterpart, comfortably dances all over the stage, looking relaxed. The vocals in “Upside Down” had seemingly been adjusted to suit Jamiroquai’s vocal range, despite it being one of Ross’ greatest hits. The Ross-Jamiroquai performance became a catalyst for Sarah’s installation, I’m So Fucking Tired, from its presentation to its intention. Blood explains:
“It’s the idea of vacuous-ness and facade, about the pressure women face, not only to work twice as hard for equal recognition but to look good doing it, meanwhile, men can turn up and just be. It’s saying, ‘Are you entertained? Am I shiny enough for you? Are you happy?’ The projection is that everything is great, but the backend of that is, I’m so tired. I’m tired of feeling this. I’m tired of the double standards.”
I’m So Fucking Tired, is also an extension of Sarah’s frustration with her own struggles as a woman navigating the male-dominated neon industry. From patronization to being overlooked for specific jobs and projects, Sarah has accumulated her fair share of stories, experiences she and fellow-SHE BENDers shared:
“Every single one of us had a story about sexism or sexual harassment in the neon industry. Every, single, one of us. But here we are. We’re making neon anyway and fuck those guys! We’re walking the walk, we’re making our shit, and we’re finally getting the recognition we deserve, which is both exciting and powerful”
All of Sarah’s work in SHE BENDS has a personal element that ties the piece to a poignant moment in her life. Her sculptures, Holding My Breath, Continuing Without, and Between Further and Farther, are reflections on community and connectivity.
Sarah moved to the U.S. about 5 years ago, leaving her UK home and community behind. She describes this series of neon work as “intimate”, underscored by the fact that all of the neon are moderately sized and can be held in one’s hand.
Holding My Breath presents a neon curl, with a prickly, steel-pin exterior, resting atop a plush, royal-purple pillow. The neon glows icy-blue as electricity courses through the glass tube and into the pins. Sarah reveals that the piece plays with notions of tension and preciousness:
“It’s an object that appears to be very luxurious and you want to touch it, but there’s a tension there, the pins are razor sharp and could tear you to pieces. The electricity running through the tube also has the potential to arc through the glass to the metal pins, which would destroy the piece. The work itself is potentially damaging or self-destructive.”
A selection of Sarah Blood’s work is currently on view at The Midway Gallery as part of SHE BENDS: Women in Neon. You can find her creations alongside those of 31 additional female benders during our gallery hours Wednesday thru Saturday from 2pm to 7pm.
SHE BENDS WILL BE ON VIEW UNTIL JUNE 2, 2018
GALLERY HOURS: WEDNESDAY - SATURDAY FROM 2PM TO 7PM