Between the Sheets | Claire Milbrath
January 3, 2018
This week we’re talking with Claire Milbrath, an artist and publisher based in Montreal. Since its inception in September 2011, The Editorial Magazine, which features a huge variety of art, fashion, writing and more, has garnered a serious cult following. With over 45,000 followers on Instagram, a healthy merch business and bi-annual circulation around the world, she’s built an enviable mini empire in just a few short years.
Even if you’re not familiar with the magazine, you’ve probably seen its patron saint, Poor Gray, depicted on any number of T-shirts, hats and tote bags. Poor Gray is a character of Milbrath’s own invention, a kind of disaffected hermit-cum-socialite who spends his days navigating his own excess and having sexual encounters.
Hi Claire! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an artist primarily working with oil paint. I run Editorial Magazine as my day job. I’m from Victoria, British Columbia, but have lived in Montreal for a decade.
Does sexuality or gender play a role in your work? You’ve talked before about Poor Gray being an inversion of the lazy or lethargic female nude.
I like what John Berger said about the female nude as a reoccurring subject for traditional European painting, a woman is a sight to be looked at. A nude has to be seen as an object in order to be a nude. Centuries of nudes that are not naked. Submissive nudes exhibiting little energy, existing solely for the pleasure of the male spectator/owner. Participating in the historical medium of oil painting, it seems redundant to depict the female nude. Poor Gray provides commentary on these gender codes, but he’s also my way of negotiating my contradictory feminine/masculine traits.
Without necessarily being ‘sensual’, can you talk a bit about the role of your senses in your work?
I’m interested in the art of pleasure, particularly the 18th century trend of painting Fête champêtre, lavish outdoor picnics. Gray is at the center of this, a Dandy nurtured in luxury, so overly saturated in wealth and sex that it becomes meaningless. Despite his sexual activities, there is a loneliness and longing.
What is the role of self-care in your life? Do you use it to control stress, or just to be present with yourself?
Self care is a new idea for me, probably because I’m getting old or because I went to LA this year. I fall into moods easily and am trying to learn new coping mechanisms other than alcohol and TV. It’s really important to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. Reaching out to your community and helping others should be considered self-care as much as exercise and masturbation.
Do you have any favorite rituals of self-care?
Productivity is actually the most healing for me. Working and listening to music, or having dinner with the girls.
Do you think sex be a form of self-care?
Yes. I do…it can be a dark experience though too.
Does art-making figure into a self-care program for you?
Yes! Working with your hands is really calming I think. Moving paint around on the canvas is a great feeling, everyone should try it!