2022 - ongoing

Artist Statement

Self Care Action is an ongoing series of hand-knitted panels bearing texts relating to self-care. The work was begun in May 2022 and will continue until March 2023. The series arose from my lived experience as a queer artist/teacher/advocate/activist and parent. In response to the frustration from years of working in art-world and real-world contexts to generate urgent forms of social and political change, I began to formulate these text works/reminders how to care for oneself – through challenging times.

Self-care has its roots in radical activism. As a term, it dates to the US based civil rights and women’s rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Activist organizations upset by the ways America’s healthcare system was failing marginalized communities worked to give those communities free or lower-cost resources to better take care of themselves. In the late 1960s, the Black Panther Party created the first Peoples’ Free Medical Clinic as an alternative to hospitals and private care practices. The women’s rights movement of the 1970s also provided underserved communities feminist health centres. Activists preached self-care within communities and practiced it themselves. Writer, feminist, and civil rights activist Audre Lorde famously stated, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

The knitted Self Care Action panels are all the same size. They are brightly coloured and deploy the same rounded font. These simple design elements underscore the optimism of the project and the clarity of the actions. Actions from the series include: Ask for help, Stay Present, Switch Off Your Phone, Love Yourself, Make Art, Get Into Nature, Feel Your Feelings, Get Therapy, and Say No. Every panel is the same size - 55 x 40cm. The works are shared on Instagram via @katejustknits and using the #katejustselfcareaction with images of each work, pictures of me holding each sign up, and text about each self-care prompt.

Each work is a simple reminder that I consider crucial for my own emotional survival and resilience. It is also an invitation to others to imagine how they might prioritise caring for themselves. These are simple actions that are sometimes hard to do. Though I initially made the signs to consider how artists and activists can build emotional resilience to be able to continue doing the work we do, personal circumstances in my own life have continued to shape and inform the work. In the two years leading up to the project I had foster-adopted a second child (a teenager), struggled through two years of pandemic life, and then, just as I started the series, my father died. Beyond offering the means for taking care of myself as an artist and activist, they also are guiding me as to how I might work through grief, global upheaval, family stress, and life changes. As I share these works with others, I notice that a reminder to love and care for yourself is always welcome.

This body of work was first show during the Beechworth Contemporary Art Award, and participants were invited to join me and participate in live knitting/craft circles in front of this work. This component of the work continued my creation of knitting circles in museum and public spaces as a means of building community connection and resilience. The series is being further developed for an exhibition at Linden New Art in early 2023.