Everybody poops

Greta Bank talks priorities and realities
By ANNIE LARMON  |  July 29, 2009

poop main
SCULPTURE AS SPECTACLE A work from Greta Bank's Wallflower project. 

Recently selected as one of 17 regional artists to exhibit at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park's Biennial in January 2010 (alongside fellow Mainer Randy Regier), and awarded a grant from the Maine Arts Commission in support of her interactive sculpture "The Cashmere Iron Maiden," Greta Bank is struggling to find studio time on top of being a mother of two. Bank, who received her BFA from the Cooper Union and an MFA from the University of Arizona, is turning 40 this year, and coming to terms with her ideas of success in an art world she is largely skeptical of. She met with the Portland Phoenix in her Portland studio to discuss new work, obsession, and how it all fits in with being a mother.

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON IN PREPARATION FOR THE DECORDOVA BIENNIAL? I feel like I'm constantly examining humanity, and a fatalist behavior that I see across the board. I've been focusing on biophilia and biophobia for the last couple of years, looking at the surface and the way we present ourselves, how that becomes our sense of purpose. We get so caught up in our environment and performance, our décor, that it defines us. The idea of biophilia was E.O. Wilson's original idea, and then there's the biophilia hypothesis by this guy (Stephen) Kellert. I'm more interested in the biophobia aspect: that we have an attraction to nature and want to identify with it, but the more we've domesticated the planet, the more disturbed it becomes. Now we're in terror of life around us. We're trying to feel good about it, and relate to it, but we're actually terrified. We have an incredible vigilance about things that we can't see. Viruses, germs, dirt, snakes, and spiders are a constant threat. It might be primordial memory, but all we are now (is) deflecting from the fact that humans are destructive creatures. Instead of individually or collectively realizing how messed up and chaotic we are, we obsess about romanticizing and domesticating things.

KUNDERA DEFINED "KITSCH AS" "THE ABSOLUTE DENIAL OF SHIT"... That's totally what I'm doing. The fear of shit is the ultimate democratizer. Everyone's got a butt. Everyone's poop smells. And why is that such a big deal? Why are we so scared? It makes life kinda hard. It's such an Americanish thing.

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO YOUR NEW BODY OF WORK? I'm still in talks with the museum about exactly what will happen, but the Wallflower project uses the sparkly veneer and anthropomorphic forms that have a humorous, existential, animated performance element. They're a little cinematic, a bit of a spectacle, but also super gross-out and very pretty. Contradictory. I'm not sure this really translates, but it's important that I take a neutral stance, to let viewers interpret for themselves.

SO YOU DON'T WANT TO BE DIDACTIC. I want to believe that. I'm very aware that this is all normal, basic, sincere stuff to me. It's not a big deal. It's nail polish. It's buttholes. Everybody's doing it. I think from the outside looking in it seems a lot more bizarre, it's just not a part of normal social language. It's sensational, which I'm aware of, but at the same time I roll my eyes and ask, why?

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