This week we’ve got something a little bit different. As you know, we want to make FabArt a space to approach issues in contemporary art. Along with pieces about institutions, art history and show reviews, we are happy to present the first in an ongoing series of more one-on-one profiles of contemporary artists discussing their work and experiences. Our first interviewee is Torey Akers, a Boston based artist and current MFA candidate at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Akers works in a variety of drawing and painting techniques as well as exploring performance and sound. Her current work work deals with the feminine grotesque and subverting traditional representation of female bodies in art.

In the following Akers speaks as Baubo, a greek goddess associated with spectacle and jest. The furiously articulate introduction rings like a well oiled one woman show with a heavy dose of camp setting the scene for a trembling breath-y burlesque rendition of ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy.’ Traditional notions of “performance” are quickly ditched as the act takes a turn from playing to it’s imaginary crowd to sharp probing examination of audience and self. Baubo delves into ideas about desirability and value with a mix of uncomfortable honesty and sarcastic wit.

Akko Surai: Who is Baubo? Why did you choose this character?

Torey Akers: Baubo is a very minor Greek deity whose story appears exactly one time in the mythological canon: She stumbles upon Demeter

mourning the kidnapping of her daughter in a field and offers her wine in solidarity. When Demeter refuses, Baubo moons her. They both laugh and share a drink. I was totally enamored of the weirdness weaving through that interlude, and equally captured by the visualizations of Baubo in sculpture and wall-painting; she’s either an old crone with her pussy out or a walking uterus with eyeballs. She was also the designated goddess of bawdy jokes, which got me hyped about the possibilities for raunch and humor in her monologues, since, you know, women aren’t funny.

AS: Your previous work has been mainly two dimensional, does this piece have any visual aspects?

TA: Good question! I conceived of this as a recording that viewers would listen to through headphones, but as I develop more material, I’m starting to think about room-engulfing drawings installation and a more surround-sound experience. There’s something horrifying intimate about listening to someone’s voice in a sensory vacuum, and I think, with enough practice, I can hone the performance aspect of this work to a place that functions independently of external stimuli.

AS: How does performance relate to your practice as a painter? How is the process similar or different?

TA: My painting practice has changed drastically over the course of this year, and I think there’s an immediacy the Baubo project accomplishes that my paintings haven’t been able to yet, although I’m getting closer…ish. The fact of the matter is, of course, that Baubo represents facets of my personality I can’t, don’t, or won’t voice in everyday discourse. In that sense, she’s an outlet, but she’s also a lot for me to handle.

AS: What responses have you had showing this project, were they unexpected?

TA: Honestly, all of my peers and mentors are more excited about voice-based stuff than anything two-dimensional I’m doing, which is part of the reason I keep putting off its development. It’s hard to put yourself on the line like that! We’ll see where it all goes. I’m excited to introduce a possible live element, as well. Thanks, man!

So what do you think readers? I’m a newcomer to performance and sound art but I think this piece touches on interesting points about “performing” gender or sexuality. More than that, where is the line between performing art and entertainment? Is there one in this case? Would you see Baubo live? Leave us a response in the comment section below and stay tuned for the new features to come.

Originally published by

Further Reading:

More art from Torey Akers

An Introduction to the feminine divine

More about Baubo

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