Fathers and Leaders 2017-19
Also known as “Crayon Leaders” – Art Proejcet about Fatherhood
During my work on my Project Lipstick Leaders, I was often asked if I’m working on a “Men-Project” mostly during the talk with different Leaders I portrayed for this Project.
It was very clear to me how I want such a project to look, the goal of Lipstick Leaders it’s to show Women Leaders in a never before manner, and I wanted to do the same with men leaders:
- If I have portrayed the women in a very serious and deferential manner in a Cathedral like style. The men’s portraits will be presented in a very chaotic, reachable, and heartfelt manner.
- If during the Lipstick Leaders, I talked to the leaders mainly about leadership and day-to-day business. I want to talk with the men about matters of the heart.
- If I portrayed the women leaders, with charcoal and with only red lipstick I will draw the men leaders with Crayons that should be colorful and almost naïve.
With that, I don’t want to show Men in a “softer light” or “belittle” them. I want to show Men as they “Also” really are, they are Leaders people who carry Social and Economical responsibility. And they are Fathers
The Covid19 stopped this project from flying, but I haven’t lost hope of its jet. For me, it is s very intimate and grounded Project that I would like to share. Personally, I find the portraits that I did very good and the stories collected are in my opinion a collection of intriguing insight into masculinity and the different facets of Fatherhood.
Recently a Journalist friend interviewed me about the project:
What made you decide to start the father’s project?
While working on Lipstick Leaders, I was often asked if I would do a «men» portrait project. How often do I take such questions very personally and seriously, I didn’t have to think long about whether I would do it, but I was still missing a “story” or the perspectives from which I want to do the project. When I then portrayed Rebecca Guntern (Head of Sandoz Europe) for Lipstick Leaders and she asked me this very question, I was able to give her an answer straight away. «There will be a father’s project showing leading men from their family-paternal side».
In my work process, there is often a long period of time between the proclamation of a project and its realization – but this was not the case here. The idea was clear and easy to communicate. I wanted to portray men leaders in their professional lives and ask about their relationship with their own father, specifically a story about him.
Why did you ask them about their father, why not ask them about their children?
The “Father” question came out of two ulterior motives. For one thing, I didn’t want to get too close. Family can get very close very quickly and I thought that some kind of a deviating maneuver would be offered to talk about the “topic” but not directly address it. My projects are not about “discovering” things, but about showing them as they are. I can only do this if the models or participants feel safe.
What was the other ulterior motive?
A feeling I had then and that is very present in my mind now is that masculinity and fatherhood and their meaning have changed a lot in a very short time. Social demands have changed a lot and by asking adult men about their fathers, I was able to capture three generations at once (grandfathers, fathers and children). Focused on Switzerland, this has gained even more emphasis.
Why do you think that – what makes Switzerland special in this respect?
Switzerland is a very conservative society where certain social norms that were common in the rest of Europe have only changed in Switzerland in the last 30-20 years (women’s suffrage is just a small example). For many Swiss, it is still normal for children to stay at home during early education, which of course has a great impact on the traditional male/female roleplay. A situation has been created where the differences between the generations are very clear and often very visible. In terms of the project, I find it very exciting.
The portraits are very colorful and color-raw. Why have you chosen crayons for the portraits? So far, your projects have been very monotonous or plain in this sense why did you choose to paint the fathers so colourful?
I often work with crayons and very consciously use simple, almost childlike markers. I often use it to «warm up» artistically it comes from the thought that on the one hand, I can’t do anything «right» or «beautiful» with this specific material – i.e. free of the norms of having to do something right, which only allows me to focus on the “doing”. The other thought, which as I understand in relation to this project, is very important. Is that for most of us these crayons are directly related to the first steps of creativity, and we often have a very positive reaction to it.
It was important to me that the fathers were painted in this almost naïve way so that the whole subject could produce a different dialogue right from the start. I wanted to show the fathers from a soft, almost childlike side.
I have the feeling that fatherhood is very cliché-burdened when it is shown in an art context. With this colorful portrait collection, I wanted to neutralize the whole theme of it and thus emphasize the human aspect.
You have done almost 50 portraits so far; did you notice anything in particular?
Actually, quite a lot, the project was or is full of surprises. For example, the first father I painted said he never knew his father because he died shortly after he was born. This was a bit of a shock for me because it was very unexpected. It struck me that many of the men found it difficult to relate a shared experience, not because he (their father) was violent or anything (there weren’t any storytelling problems regarding this topic) but because there simply weren’t any. A very heartwarming, but also a very frequently used sentence “My father was a very busy man, but when it came to something important to me, he always made time for me”.
Why do you find this sentence so special?
Men or fathers from the generation under discussion are often associated with the first aspect, i.e. rather absent or very disinterested when it comes to children or upbringing. This shows a side that is often not addressed: the father’s role in upbringing. I also have to say that there were often very beautiful human stories afterwards. It was just nice to be there and to hear.
The project hasn’t been shown yet, are there any plans to present it soon?
Yes, there were plans for 2020 to publish it, but Corona has put a stop to it. I’ve been asked about it again and again lately and the idea of taking up the project again is not alien to me. Possibly with the developed gender topics he can even contribute something new. I’m definitely on the lookout for partnerships in this regard and who knows maybe next year.