Ladybeard spoke with Tyson about her artwork, writing and sexual politics for the Sex Issue. In the extract below, she expands on the inspiration behind Dead Letter Men.
Back in 2011, Ridykeulous (an occasional activist collaboration between the artists A.L. Steiner and Nicole Eisenman) staged an exhibition titled Readykeulous: The Hurtful Healer: The Correspondence Issue. Various artists were invited to contribute an open letter of complaint, concerning something that irked them about “the world today”, and particularly patriarchy. I submitted a letter titled ‘Dear Man on the Street’, in which I complained about being asked to smile by complete strangers. It was fun and so cathartic that I quickly followed it with a bunch of letters to dead male artists: Picasso, Bacon, Manet, Gainsborough, Ensor and Beckmann, which I later developed into a performance piece. I don’t attack the artists, as I did in ‘Dear Man on Street’, but instead I use them and their work as a springboard to rage satirically, examining art (my own and theirs), sexual politics (contemporary and historical) and biography (my own and theirs). I’ve always resisted explaining my own work, preferring the process to remain enigmatic even to myself, and so this was a way of investigating the coordinates from which my working practice, crucially as ‘a woman artist’, has evolved.
Dead Letter Men, designed by Peter Miles, text copyright Nicola Tyson, published by Petzel Gallery and Sadie Coles HQ, 2013, Edition of 800
Words by Tyro Heath.
Read the full interview in The Sex Issue.