KENZIE Adair’s exhibition "Knee Deep" at the SCAD Museum of Art is as thoughtful as it is beautiful.
Adair incorporates texture into her digital collages as an exploration of ecofeminist theory, which is the theory that the destruction of the natural world is linked directly to the suppression of women and other marginalized communities.
The resulting work ponders our ties to the environment and, ultimately, whether we can help it.
We spoke to Adair last week.
1. Tell me about ecofeminism.
Adair: My previous work had been focused on portrayals of women in media. I was doing some sort of artistic soul-searching and I got into this idea of environmentalism and the intersection of that and feminism. That’s ecofeminism.
It draws links between trying to control or destroy the environment and make it more unproductive and this subjection of women and other vulnerable groups of people. From there, I looked at the effects of controlling the environment and making it more productive through commercial agriculture.
2. What else inspired this body of work?
Adair: Even when we look at screens, that’s not real life, even though it’s representing things that are real. It’s like a filtration system of imagery. I thought about imagery and how it’s filtered through lots of different steps. And I just read an article about how even phone cameras can distort your face and you get so used to looking at your face through a camera lens.
3. Your paintings incorporate texture. What’s the purpose of doing that?
Adair: I just wanted something that universally connected people to ideas of nature and things that come directly in real life. Texture is such a 3D element in the work it brings out of the 2D. There’s a lot of important 2D stuff, like the digital collage in the background, and it was something that connected people to something organic.
Specifically, using braids as a connection to how we fix our hair and how a lot of people do things to their hair that’s unnatural. I’m not trying to make a statement about that—I do all sorts of stuff to my hair—but how we take organic materials and transform them or introduce synthetic materials.
That piece specifically, I was thinking a lot about how, if you’re brought up and conditioned as a girl, you encounter and you’re expected to put so many different things in your body that men aren’t. All these things have unnatural components and some of the jury’s still out on the way that this stuff affects us. It’s shown to have negative effects on our body, and I’m looking at how women deal with that more.
4. How does that idea weave into your work?
Adair: I think a big point I came across when I was giving an artist talk was that I was also looking at creating equity between the body and natural materials, breaking down the hierarchy of humans being in control of the environment and looking at us as an equal part of that ecosystem. I feel like, in our bodies, as part of this ecosystem, we see reflections of our bodies in nature, and how connected we are looking at the disconnection.
It really is a tool of the patriarchy to make us feel removed from the environment and above it and something for us to use and exploit instead of something we’re a part of.
5. There’s a recent climate change report that’s pretty bleak. How do you think this separation of body and earth affected that?
Adair: I think creating a wedge between us and that allows us not to feel the effects when we treat the environment like shit. I think just growing up so disconnected, I never thought twice about my use of plastic, and it wasn’t until I started looking at myself as an equal part of the ecosystem when I realized.
I was even making the work and torn about using all these synthetic materials because I was like, “Man, I’m putting more into the world!” But it’s a part of the work.