Excerpted from an interview of Mary Beth Edelson for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, 2009
There is a certain body of my paintings that have not been exhibited. People respond strangely to them in the studio with a vague embarrassment that I sometimes share- not in agreement, but because I realized in their embarrassment, that it is still not the right time to show them, then again some time has passed.
I think of this body of paintings as being psychically surreal, that is, on an unfamiliar esoteric plane. Viewers react to them as being unintelligible, but I think it is something more direct: they simply cannot be seen, as yet. Perhaps they are blocked from clear viewing, not inscrutable, but rather unrecognizable at this time- or am I making too much of this? Nonetheless there is something there that I wish to puzzle out.
The paintings that I am referring to were created during in a time in which I had the gift of obscurity, especially in relationship to painting, and therefore I was able to by pass filters. I think of the small paintings that Louise Bourgeois created in the 40’s because under a spotlight I doubt that these works would have come into being. Before she was recognized she was dismissive of them as if they were vaguely troubling. Again a state of embarrassment comes to mind, in particular centered on raw, unpretentious, depictions of the human body and environs that are not coded.
It occurs to me that my paintings seem arcane, allusive and unreadable sans context. The subjects in these works occupy a female position that is un-theorized, and therefore problemitized and invisible.