Arts & Culture

Q&A: Linda Ford talks recent exhibit ‘Territorialize’

Artist uses fly fishing tools as a medium through which to explore gender, attraction, women’s issues

Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

From Dec. 5 to Jan. 27, the Sarah Doyle Women Center Gallery presented “Territorialize,” a solo exhibition by Linda Ford. Using fly-fishing instruments throughout her work, Ford aims to explore the body and how it is used to attract others. The Herald spoke to Ford about her exhibition.

Q: Tell me about your art.

A: The Sarah Doyle exhibit is a project that I’ve been doing for a few years now that’s exploring the practice of fly-fishing and fly-catching. … My work generally explores issues around the body, psychology and gender. This is a combination of these things in a little bit different way. It explores issues of attraction and display in the practice of fly-fishing and how it plays out in the human world when we think about attraction and what we do to attract a mate or to attract anyone.

What inspired this exhibit?

I grew up with a father who was an avid fly-fisher and I have two brothers who are still fly-fishers. Part of the experience was that I was the only girl, and so it wasn’t something I did on a regular basis with my father, as opposed to my brothers. I am taking it up again as an adult and exploring it from that perspective of not being included, while engaging with gender as well as other philosophical issues.

What message do you hope to extend with your artwork?

I hope my work makes people think about why we do some of the things we do. In this particular case, it would be to have people think about what we do in our lives that might be artistic — what animals do to attract other people and display themselves and how that plays out for human beings. I hope people come out of this thinking about the psychology of the things that we do.

Why do you think art is a good medium for addressing women’s issues?

Art is a good medium for expressing all sorts of issues — especially what’s on people’s minds these days. I think art gets people to think about things differently and exposes people to different kinds of ideas and hopefully different sensations and experiences. It’s political when it opens someone’s mind up to something new to help them see something in a different way.

Why did you choose the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center to exhibit your art?

Originally, a friend of mine had a show there a few years ago. I was interested that they were a center for women’s and gender issues. When I moved to Providence, I went to some shows there, and I loved the old 19th-century house. It’s very domestic.  It’s perfect for the work I’m doing right now because it engages gender issues, women’s issues and issues of attraction.

How did you get started with art?

As a child, I watched my dad draw and paint. He was self-taught and he had very little education, but besides fishing, it was the only other thing he did for enjoyment and relaxation. It was one of the rare times I ever saw him being that way, relaxed and escaping his mental health issues and his addiction issues. So I think that, as a child, I interpreted art as a way to be happy, and I started drawing as a kid.

How do you perceive your pieces are representative of your worldview?

Most artists make work about what they’re preoccupied with in their lives. I think this series of work about fly-fishing is interesting in different ways for me. I think we have a lot in common with animals ­— in a good way. We’re engaged with our bodies, and I think our strength lies in those sorts of things, but I think bodily knowledge and these other ways of knowing things are really important, and they’re often dismissed in our culture, like being female.

What were challenges in engaging with the theme of attraction and display for this particular exhibit?

The challenge is getting to push the fly-fishing practice beyond what it is already. So it became apparent for me in this show that I need to think more about where to go with making flies and what they might become.

Do you think art speaks for itself?

Art speaks really loudly for itself. But I think, as viewers, it’s interesting to have dialogue about art, and it’s necessary to do that. But I do think art speaks for itself because our bodies respond to art, but we have to feel confident enough to pay attention and respond to the sensations and the internal responses we have. It’s just a matter of feeling like you can do it. I think that’s kind of what art is all about, because it’s so visual and it’s not about words. It’s a visual practice — we just have to develop our own way of responding to these things and being okay and comfortable with doing that.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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