Pipe Portraits

[in progress]
Like men, at first women began to take up pipe smoking out of curiosity and many enjoyed it enough to continue the practice, but evidently not in sufficient numbers to make it a regular part of social custom for any great length of time. For while society has often permitted women to smoke a pipe, rarely have they been encouraged to do so. P. 177*

I am in the process of painting 18-20 individual paintings of pipes which belonged to a man I will never meet. This pipe collection along with many of his books, now belong to his son, my partner, and are housed in a small, quaint apartment heritage building in the nine streets of Amsterdam. The pipes from the collection that I have painted thus far, are life size and painted on the same size oval canvas boards, taking on the appearance of a portrait.

About three blocks away from my partners’ home, one will find the Amsterdam Pijp (pipe) museum on the Prinsengracht. Alongside a plethora of pipes exhibited in chronological order, they also have paintings in their collection, one of which is by the prominent 19th century painter Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun. She often painted herself in her work and in this particular self-portrait she is holding a smoking pipe. By the time she finished the painting in 1830, (commenced in 1790) pipe smoking for women was not done. The authenticity of this painting according to the Pipe Museum is questionable. The painting has definitely been restored at some point after the war and it is rumored that it was altered whereby her exposed décolleté was covered with the addition of painting a shawl.

Alongside the pipe portraits of the pipes themselves I will be making one or two self-portraits, smoking a pipe, painting in the style of Le Brun as an ode to this extraordinary female portraitist, whose work may have been censored, and completed at a time when pipe smoking for women could only take place behind closed doors.

Many women smoke standard sized pipes, but women pipe smokers should exercise the same care that a man does when selecting a pipe: buy one with a shape and of a size that will compliment your own facial features and bone structure. P .183*

In addition to the paintings I will also be making a small series of photographic self-portraits with a Polaroid camera or in a photo-booth pretending to smoke the pipes from the pipe collection as a means to find the perfect pipe for my facial features. All of these photographs and paintings will be exhibited in my partners’ apartment. The first image the viewer will see as they walk into the space is a large photographic portrait above his fireplace of me seated, smoking a pipe and him, at my side but in the background (perhaps holding my tobacco).

For a woman, lighting her pipe in the privacy of her home is no major media event, but lighting up in public could be a traumatic experience if she is not prepared for it. p.187*

For the first time in my career I would also like to do a performance - of my first pipe smoking experience. This will be documented on video and the actual performance may take place during the exhibition, or exhibited as a video.

*Hacker, Richard Carleton. The Utlimate Pipe Book. 1984. P 177, 183, 187.