Hollywood’s #MeToo Whistleblower Rose McGowan Says She Is Now Focusing on Her Other Major Passion—Art

The actor turned activist talks about the artists she admires and the making of an emotional art film that premieres next month in London.

Rose McGowan by Amarpaul Kalirai.

Since Hollywood’s #MeToo watershed one year ago, Rose McGowan has become synonymous with the movement, adding activism to her already diverse public resume. But her multitasking doesn’t stop there—McGowan is also a visual artist. Next month, a video work starring McGowan gets its premiere in London.

The former actor tells artnet News that she has been steeped in the art world for a long time, as has her family. “Art has been intertwined in my life since I was born,” McGowan says. Speaking from London, where she now lives, she explains: “My father was an incredible illustrator and fine artist who pioneered numerous airbrush techniques.” In fact, both of McGowan’s sisters are in the art world—one works at Hauser & Wirth and another is at a gallery in Colorado.

McGowan’s first role in an art project is a video production by Heist Gallery and Tonia Arapovic. Called Indecision IV, it captures an improvised encounter between McGowan and the dancer James Mulford. Shot in one continuous take, it is due to be screened at the Institute of Light in East London on December 15 and 16.

McGowan, who collects art, has been frequently spotted over the years at exhibition openings and art fairs around London. She has recently started making multimedia work herself. Earlier this year, McGowan released a visual- and sound-based album this year called Planet 9. It features a bass-heavy pop song called “Now You’re Here” as well as more experimental, spoken word compositions. “It took me a long time to realize I was an artist, too,” says McGowan of her more recent path. She also has a separate Instagram account, Rose McGowan Arts, for her photography that overlaps with the music project. It seems, for now, that she is also no longer referring to herself as an actor as she embarks on these new projects with more candor.

Still from Indecision IV.

In October 2017, McGowan, along with Ashley Judd, was one of the first women to come forward with allegations of rape or abuse by the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein. McGowan alleges that the ex-Miramax mogul raped her when she was 23 years old, and then bought her silence with a $100,000 payment. Weinstein strongly denies the allegations.

What followed was a remarkable and testing year for McGowan. A high-profile activist against misogyny, she has also come under fire several times since the breakout last year for her outspoken and sometimes scandalous statements on and off Twitter. Acting moved to the side: she also launched her social justice platform #RoseArmy and published a memoir called Brave about her upbringing in a cult with her artist-father and siblings, which also delved into her alleged sexual assault by Weinstein. Then in May, she was indicted for drug possession in the US, which happened around the time the project with Heist Gallery was being filmed. It was a particularly intense moment in an already emotional year, the experience of which will be conveyed on screen.

Still from Indecision IV.

“Collaborating on Indecision IV was a very moving experience,” McGowan says. “At the intersection of energy, physicality and art, it gave me a space to work through emotions during a tumultuous time. [It is] a beautifully taut piece that taught me a lot about grace.”

It is not surprising that McGowan gravitates to art that parallels her radical moralistic position. She says some of her favorite works include Zoe Leonard’s “I Want a President,” a poetic work from 1992 that re-emerged around Trump’s election. (In the poem, Leonard praises rape survivors.) “My fantasy collection would be filled with works by Kara Walker, Adrian Piper, Amy Sherald… There are so many dreams,” McGowan says. She adds that she has always shied away from art of the male gaze; it lacks nuance.

“I have a Grant Haffner I commissioned not long ago that I adore,” says McGowan, citing the artist best known for painting empty roads, utility poles, and power lines. “I’m also quite into a Claire Falkenstein [abstract] piece that I got last year, it looks like what my mind feels like.” She is also particularly excited about Hilma af Klint’s long overdue major US retrospective, which is currently on view at the Guggenheim in New York. “Art just makes me feel better being around it,” she adds.

Still from Indecision IV.

In Indecision IV, McGowan moves in tandem with the dancer Mulford who created and performed the original dance piece earlier in 2018. It is inspired by the Russian-born artist Maria Kreyn’s surreal painting The Allegory of Indecision. The painting features a highly eroticized Saint Sebastian collapsed under three fighting dogs. Heist Gallery organized a solo show that included the work at the Welsh Chapel in London earlier this year, which features in the video.

“I know there has been change because I hear it everyday,” says McGowan, when asked whether the #MeToo movement has changed male behavior in the art world as much as the film industry. “I think we need to realize that our society has a specific kind of cancer and we must fight to cure it. If so many people have been victimized, we have a huge amount of walking wounded amongst us. The art world doesn’t get an exemption. We’ve put up with so much for so long, there’s just no reason we have to live this way.”

What’s next for the artist-activist seems to be under wraps for now. But she shows no signs of relenting in her take-down of power abusers, in the art world, film world and beyond.

“I believe the cultural industry as a whole is embroiled because it’s outlandishly male-dominated and because it’s always been perceived as a bit of a mystery to those not in it, thus it operated as abusively as it wanted to,” McGowan says.

Indecision IV premieres December 15 and 16, The Institute of Light, London Fields, London.

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