Intro Art has always been inspired by with politics. From both World Wars with guerrilla girls and slogans like We Can Do It1, to Nazi propaganda posters. Equally though, politics has informed artists. The most famous political artist of our generation, Banksy2 uses his art to question all authority: from CCTV and the police to nuclear warfare and the Israeli West Bank barrier. Perhaps though his biggest target has been the people who pay millions for his artwork or display it in galleries when the whole point of graffiti is that it is temporary. This culminated in his film Exit Through the Gift Shop3 in which he parodied a naïve characters immediate rise from novice to famous artist, asking the audience to judge if itʼs real or not. Banksy is the perfect example of someone who has taken his genre, marketed it to the mainstream as art and had great success. Itʼs this ability to bypass the art establishment and go straight to the public, which I think is something textile artists could learn a lot from. Street art and textiles have more in common than may be initially apparent on the surface. In both we find the rawness of dissatisfaction and anger at The Establishment as well as an admiration for it. Both are also marginalised to certain areas of society. Street art is allegedly reserved for vandals, jaded youth in tracksuits and textiles, of course, for women. No wonder the male-driven traditional art world shunned both practices and yet they both have the potential to appeal to the majority, as something that speaks to them on a level that classical painting may not be able too. A debate that has been consistent around textiles as a means of art is its distinction from craft. Coming from a traditionally craft basis means that itʼs artistic merit is up for debate in the eyes of the institution of fine art. But who decides what is art and what is craft? For me the line is often function. If something is simply designed to be beautiful then surely it is art, no matter how others see it or if it is a chair or a dress or a bowl. However, the stigmas connected to textiles as craft and as art hark back hundreds of years as shown by this 18th century quote: “Sir, sheʼs an Artist with her needle… Could anything be more laughable that a woman claiming artistic status for her sewing?”4 Attitudes have undoubtedly moved on since then, and women are closer to equality now than they have ever been. As a modern feminist though I do not feel as if the debate is over in times when are young girls have low self esteem and young boys take advantage of this. However, I think itʼs extremely important to understand the background from which attitudes towards textiles have evolved, so that we can understand the politics of it as a media.
History Textiles have been fundamental in aiding the progress of society since the beginning of civilisation. The textile trade was key to the development of the West; beginning with our reliance on the wool trade in the middle ages, and the establishment of a textile industry in the 15th century, and leading on to the Industrial Revolution with more sophisticated methods of dyeing, weaving and embroidery with machines and a wider variety of fabric imported from other Commonwealth countries. Traditionally, crafts like embroidery were passed down from mother to daughter as a means of entertainment and admission of their femininity. You never saw a woman sit so still… Roseʼs hands seemed usually to be still, though the needle was always threaded. She drove men demented.5 Women who embroider are seen as the epitome of femininity. Not only does it mean that their mothers can keep an eye on them, it also means that they are kept at home and therefore away from any trouble that may put a prospective suitor off. However, itʼs perhaps the segregation of this early textile art that allowed it to become an art form in itself. Like this curious seventeenth-century sampler verse: When I was young I little thought That wit must be so dearly bought But now experience tells me how If I would thrive then I must bow And bend unto anotherʼs will That I might learn both care and skill To Get My Living with My Hands That So I Might Be Free From Band6 This shows how much women used embroidery to express their own thoughts on their lowly status in society. Done as a sampler the men of the house would perhaps pay little attention to such a thing, however the more you read into it the more obvious the leanings of sexual revolution become and we see the first doubts arising in women of their oppression. It is both subverting the traditional and conforming to it. The other end of this is the fact that they dulling repetitiveness of a craft such as embroidery means that the embroiderer is usually silent and very deep in thought. As observed by Colette, “But Bel-Gazou is silent when she sews, silent for hours on end… She is silent, and she…is thinking”, it sums up the contradiction of complete passiveness and also knowingness with which girls used their femininity to marry up or gain as much independence as possible, for example.
TOP: An Afternoon Embroidering, a painting by Madeleine Jeanne Lemaire the 19th century LEFT: Lady Embroidering, Tempera on canvas by Victor Borisov-Musatov from the 20th century
Background From the seeds of revolution in these samplers, the idea of reverting the male dominance in art through the use of textiles has grown and grown. It started with originators such as Jann Haworth who displayed a cowboy made entirely of fabric in 1963 to reactions of, “cast it in bronze7” to the more widely known Tracey Emin and her appliquéd artworks. Emin uses it to explore her personal life to an extent not seen in the work of her male contemporaries such as Damien Hirst, whose complete lack of labour and personality in his own work has come under constant public scrutiny8. The fact is that textiles in art already come with so many associations, so that the artist must then decide whether to play up to or ʻsubvertʼ them. Personally, I find it more appealing to subvert the traditional by portraying feminist messages and presenting them as art. Meaning that on many levels, not just that of medium, they are questioning the contrast to techniques like painting and subjects like naked women; that are traditionally found in male art. However, some modern groups such as the Craftivist Collective chose to use the underlining femininity of samplers to portray political messages in a non-threatening way9. The two artists I have chosen to look at are both female and both deal with the political message of feminism and female identity in very different ways. Annet Couwenberg originates from the Netherlands and began studying fashion at Syracuse University, New York in 1983. Her work explores identity through clothing and what this means to a Western women in the 21st century. The second artist I am going to look at is Melissa Ichiuji, hailing from Washington, whose background is in dancing and acting. A very different point of view, but she also deals with identity and the modern female by creating oddly unsettling humanistic figures. Although they both work in sculpture there are definite differences to be drawn between them. They both work with the idea of portraying politicised feminist messages through their art but both deal with it in very different ways, one implicit and one explicit. I think it will be very interesting to look at two artists working in 3d with sculpture, but with very different materials of lace and found fabrics. Their similarities in background, having both experienced the US will Iʼm sure be evident but itʼs the way they use this in their work which interests me with their particular feminist message. Hopefully it will highlight areas that I feel I can explore in my own work whilst being informed by their outcomes.
LEFT, ABOVE AND BELOW: Early work (60s) by Jann Haworth
Annet Couwenberg Fashion is perhaps an unsurprising place to start for Annet Couwenberg, whose works constantly uses repetition and her interpretation of traditional garments that act as metaphors for the constraints they put on women in society. Her background allows her to understand and execute the technical side of her art whilst allowing the message to remain completely central. Quite literally in the case of her piece, Act Normal and Thatʼs Crazy Enough”, 2003, where the word ʻEnoughʼ is embroidered into the centre of each collar inspired sculpture. Couwenbergʼs early influences sprang from watching the female members of her family at their weekly sewing sessions.10 This of course is a very traditional way of learning about textiles as this is how techniques have often been passed down through the generations of women, as I have discussed. In fact in her 1998 Family Air collection, she created emblems of lace to represent various members of her family, eg, “the lace served as a symbol of her grandmother, whose decoration of her home with lace doilies represented both a desire for gentility and a love of ornamentation.”11 The other huge influence of Couwenbergʼs work is the time she spent in fashion. She, ʻlooks at the fine line between restrictive social norms and private desires in her work, for which she uses clothes as a metaphor.ʼ12 Her use of underwear and particularly bodices is interesting as it depicts the idea of clothing distorting and manipulating womenʼs bodies into an ʻidealʼ or at least a certain shape of the classic hourglass figure. Although this silhouette has fallen out of fashion to be replaced by emancipated ʻheroin chinʼ of modern times, her analogy that this has been going on forever enforces her message and adds a dimension of historical context. From her training in fashion she understands the technicality of garments and is then able to take that to the extreme and produce them as art. Her practise is not only rooted in fashion though, many of her pieces involve intricate lace collars and machine embroidery. The repetition she uses throughout her work shows both the textile side, the human hand, as well as introducing a mechanical, modern element. Her love of computerised embroidery led her to request the addition of three of the machines to the Maryland Instituteʼs College of Art, where she chairs the textile department13. The clearly modern perspective of using machinery allows Couwenberg to enhance the artistic point of view, whilst contradicting the traditional methods in a wonderful way. This duality between using inspirations from her childhood, her background in fashion and creating pieces using highly modern techniques means that Couwenbergʼs work is individualistic but always grounded in context. As a textile artist for me itʼs important to understand the history behind textiles so that I can use these inherent aspects of my craft to enhance my art. Couwenberg understands this complex relationship between the viewerʼs personal perception and the artistʼs message completely.
LEFT AND BELOW: Act Normal and That始s Already Crazy Enough, 2003, Annet Couwenberg
In one of her earliest works Family Air (1998) Couwenberg created several emblems made of patchwork, lace and feathers placed beneath convex glass. The beige, off whites and browns in the pieces resonate with sepia tones of old photography and the shapes of the frames hint at family crests. As pointed out by J. Susan Isaacs they, ʻconnect the viewer to the ideas of family and tradition through its familiarity of form: the heraldic exterior and the lacy interior.”14 The effect of the soft, delicate, very feminine fabrics set behind the convex glass hardens them slightly. This could be seen as a metaphor for the nature of family itself, the mother is traditionally expected to take care of the family, looking after children and her husband whilst keeping an exterior that is at once disciplinarian as well as delicate. She is responsible for keeping the family together and therefore in the case of an emblem of family, the mother is the perfect metaphor. Through carefully designed forms, she addresses concerns of personal and social relevance and astutely comments on her relationship with the past15 As well as using purely historical references, in 2000 Couwenberg created four more oval shaped pieces of repetitive digitalized embroidery. The repeated motif was that of a corseted dress, with pins used over the top of the each piece to create a more traditional linear effect and to individualise them. Here her knowledge on the fashion industry and how they mass-produce original designs with no distinction is brought into discussion. However, it is done in such a way with her techniques so as to subtly put the issue forward very much in an artistic vein. They are also related to her late works and Family Air where she explores machine embroidery and dress making further. Such as Dressed to Kill where 62 mechanical embroideries of pattern pieces covered one wall. They were almost identical but involved different pieces and a range of colours to add a point of difference and enforce the sense of the human hand behind them. The analogy drawn between the digitalization of fashion and art at once is embraced through the endless repetition and also questioned through the humanity of the layout as well as the loose threads. In the 2008 piece Embroidery Penetrates Couwenberg took the embroidery up to a gigantic scale. Instead of fabric holes were digitally placed and drilled through a large piece of wood, and the cord, which acted instead of yarn, was hand threaded, again presenting the two sides of using machines and the hand. The oversized scale takes the often-overlooked media of textile to a level where it is almost shouting to compete with the male environment of a gallery. The use of the word ʻpenetratesʼ is interesting, as it is literal as the technique itself as well as alluding to the sexual connotations it has. Which in itself could perhaps be seen as a perfect analogy for the media she uses.
ABOVE: Family Air 4, 1998 by Annet Couwenberg. Seminole patchwork, lace, feathers and convex glass.
ABOVE: Embroidery Frolic 1-4, 2000. Digitized embroidery, fabric and flock, pins in shadow box, Annet Couwenberg.
TOP LINE: Dressed to Kill, 2003 by Annet Couwenberg. 62 digitized embroideries, fabric and flocked frames. ABOVE AND LEFT: Embroidery Penetrates, 2008, Annet Couwenberg. Embroidery through the wall with rope, letters based on 17th century Dutch sampler, each 9* high, drilled holes.
Coming from the fashion industry into art, Couwebergʼs piece from 1996 entitled Slip Over Pinch is perhaps the work that tells us most about her feelings concerning the relationship between the two worlds. It is essentially a highly stylised corset. But what takes it from high fashion to high art is the relationship between the functional item and the non-functional sculpture. As a garment it brings the attention to the woman inside it in a highly sexual way, almost entirely based on the male gaze. On a purely aesthetical level though, it is the absence of the wearer that presents the viewer with questions. Also, the materials used: wood, screen and reed, are structural, not traditionally used in garment production. She therefore makes a further distinction between art and craft – or beauty and use – as it could not be worn and therefore acts only as visual. It means that the viewer is left with a post modern space to consider the connotations not only of the theoretical corset prodding and forcing a womanʼs body into a specific shape, but also of the perception of women who wear corsets and the sexual overtones of them in relation to the garment itself. From the fashion industry I realized that, for me, apparel was the structure to discover the construction and deconstruction of identity, and my own in particular – a richly coded site for rediscovering psychological, sexual, and cultural identity.16 In 2003 Couwenberg created the first of a series of works based on lace ruffled collars. Act Normal and Thatʼs Already Crazy Enough, based on a popular Dutch saying. This involved paper lace doilies stitched together to create fullness as multiple cylinders placed on the ground with the word ʻEnoughʼ machine embroidered in the centre of each. She went on to use the same lace collar reference in 2007 for her seminal works, Discarded Ruffle Collar and Dutch Shotgun Chaps. The paper lace doily represents an imitation of elite culture, readily available and easily discarded. As a commoditised token of class, it glorified elegance, however false.17 The repetitive manual labour used to make the original lace collars is hinted at as well as the issue of class she mentions above. The cylinders in Act Normal… appear as self-contained organic structures and hint at “Couwenberg's interest in the restraint, enclosure, containment, and reconfiguration of women's bodies as defined by their undergarments”18 that we saw in her work on corsets.
ABOVE: Slip Over Pinch
LEFT PAGE, TOP: Discarded Ruffle Collar, 2007, Annet Couwenberg. Made of thousands of paper doilies, fabric under structure, steel boning and flocking on wood. BOTTOM: Puff, Annet Couwenberg. Made of paper lace doilies, starched cotton and millinery wire. THIS PAGE, LEFT AND BELOW: Dutch Shotgun Chaps, 2007, Annet Couwenberg. Made of thousands of paper doilies, pins, fabric, hoop and steel boning.
Melissa Ichiuji From her studio in Washington DC Melissa Ichiuji creates sculptures from pantyhose, leather, latex, dried fruit, human hair, fruit and pretty much anything else she can lay her hands on. But thatʼs not to say that they are not very precise thought out objects, as she points out, “Every element that I incorporate into a piece is loaded with its own history and references and baggage and will lead the viewer down a road…preferably one that leads to more interesting questions.”19 Her background as a dancer and actor informs her sculptures in both the positions she places them in as well as giving her more of an understanding of the effect this has on the viewer. Her understanding of the body means that every inflection, or placement of a limb is key to the message the piece conveys. A lesson she learned from an early dance teacher was: No matter what you may think you are hiding, your body will always betray you… it will always reveal itself through posture, movement or gesture20 This notion of portraying the inward emotions of her figures, through their outward expression is something very key to Ichiujiʼs art. Her figures often do not have clear faces, which is where most of us would look for a sign of emotion. It allows her work to have many interpretations, however she still has ultimate control over what is portrayed; in pieces such as Kissie Kissie. In this the figure lunges forward in a way that could be interpreted as confrontational or – as suggested by the name – in a manner of excitement in seeing someone she would like to shower in affection. The viewer must draw on their own experiences and prejudices to decide which interpretation appeals to them more. My figures often appear to be at once infantile and aging both disconnected and active. They are struggling to make sense of the world and the conflicting messages found within it.21 The eerie liminal state her figures represent, between old and young, animal and human or life and death, is something very intriguing and extremely difficult to execute through textiles. As Ichiuji uses both synthetic and natural fibres, which when used together in one piece, create a dilemma for the viewer. In one sense they present a very disturbing aesthetic, but the hand-made construction of them endears them with a more intimate quality of a craft object, which I personally find very unsettling as the blending of what we can and cannot control. There is something the use of textiles gives the figures which if they were cast in say, stone, would not have the same handmade touch. I think itʼs this key aspect of Ichiujiʼs work that interests me the most.
ABOVE: Kissie, Kissie by Melissa Ichiuji.
Many of Melissa Ichiujiʼs pieces have quite ironic titles like Afternoon Delight, which portrays figures, dressed in feathers moulded into oddly dominant/ submissive poses. One of these is Fertile Girl, which in fact depicts a figure, hips forward, naked and covered in bumps or boils. As a female sculpture placed in an art gallery we would expect something more along the lines of Auguste Rodinʼs The Kiss22 with smooth skin and full bosom, subverting the expectations of the typical art admirer. Here though the sculpture has no breasts and is named a ʻgirlʼ and yet the notion of ʻfertileʼ is something key to womanhood. This links back to the idea of the state of being on the cusp between child and adult that Ichiuji returns to again and again. In literature and art these lines are blurred but it is more often than not seen as a very beautiful transition, 23 with none of the embarrassment connected to modern recollections of puberty. Also the irony of the word ʻfertilityʼ questions the perception that people who have children should be healthy and beautiful, rather than covered in boils as the subject of the piece is. It raises the idea of love and how we merit this to appearance. Usually by measures that are dictated to us through celebrities and media and by that, are made unattainable in the first place. They refuter the premise that a body is a passport to all that is valued in life, that health, youth, beauty, sex and fitness are the hallmarks of an acceptable body image.24 In the example of Carved Girl, she uses the posture of an arched back and small dots implied as eyes staring straight out at the viewer, to exude confidence. The second thing you notice is the fact that one of her heeled legs is in fact carved out of wood and perched next to her severed limb. We relate beauty with perfection in the Western world and so to see someone who does not conform to this ideal – however abstract that ʻpersonʼ may be – portraying all the hallmarks of confidence and sexuality is something I donʼt think we as a society are wholly comfortable with. In her 2007 work, Forgotten Girl we are shown another ʻgirlʼ, who stares at her reflection in a mirror. This is perhaps an extension of the ideas brought up as it shows the new generation asking themselves if they fit into the norms of society. Although the ʻgirlʼ in question is not entirely human and definitely not the traditional definition of beautiful, there is still something unsettling about the repeated message of how these image concerns are filtering through the women in our society. Older women use plastic surgery and wrinkle creams to help their self-esteem whereas young girls are out on a Saturday night in a tiny skirt looking for gratification in male attention. This unease of oneʼs self, is such a prevalent message in todayʼs media and deserves to be explored as Ichiuji has done.
ABOVE: Fertile Girl RIGHT: Afternoon Delight, Melissa Ichiuji
ABOVE: Carved Girl by Melissa Iciuji.
ABOVE: Forgotten Girl by Melissa Ichiuji
Ichiujiʼs piece, Lesser Madonna shows the issues with modern perception of women implicitly with the two figures depicted. One is an adult presumed female, with curlers around ʻherʼ head with her breasts and crotch highlighted against dark fabric with shiny purple embellishment and the other is a child on the floor staring up at her with just a highlighted red heart on itʼs chest. Not only is the child not yet assigned a discernable gender but they are also looking up to the woman as if they are destined to follow in their footsteps as a female, or being shown an overly sexual personification of women that will effect how they treat them, if it is a boy. The adult though, legs apart, head leant on hand, seems unconcerned with the messages she may be giving to the child. Madonna is the ultimate Mother in Christianity and Lesser Madonna certainly seems to be saying that parents as well as media have a liability to set an example to their children on how to perceive themselves and others. Both of these ideas of physical imperfection, the womanʼs role and the implied value as a mother are seen in Ichiujiʼs work, Mother Sucker. Again the humour of the name adds another dimension to the piece as itʼs a ʻspinʼ on a derogatory phrase, and as the figure here is made up of large round breasts with swollen nipples, suggests the Mother as the subject matter being dealt with. Breastfeeding is one of the most mothering acts a woman can perform, feeding her baby. One of Shakespeareʼs most famous lines questions this idea, spoken by Lady Macbeth: I have given suck, and know How tender ʻtis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluckʼd my nipple from his boneless gums, And dashʼd the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this.25 In the context of the play it is a very complex piece of writing, it questions how all females are assumed to be fundamentally maternal and has been considered to be anti-woman in how it reverts this idea. But itʼs the shock of the imagery involved that relates to the very essence of why this Ichiuji piece is also so shocking. Motherhood is meant to be a beautiful thing and yet in Mother Sucker the figure is bloated and deformed, the dropped neck and hunched stance evoke pain and exhaustion; both related to motherhood as well. Itʼs again the artistic representation – like that of the female form – that has distorted the image of childbirth and motherhood in so much as in reality it hurts, a lot, itʼs not pretty and itʼs extremely hard. Surely we should revere women for going through such an ordeal and keeping the human race going? But instead we scrutinise them and allow it to widen the gap in equality through things like pay and how much mothers are expected to do. Itʼs a very provocative piece and questions a lot of the issues around traditional female roles such as mother and Madonna.
TOP: Lesser Madonna by Melissa Ichiuji BOTTOM: Mother Sucker by Melissa Ichiuji
Comparison Perhaps the most striking difference between Annet Couwenberg and Melissa Ichiuji is the media they work with in the area of textile art. Couwenbergʼs subtle embroidery and usually muted colours in contrast to Ichiujiʼs bright floral patterns and stressed red pantyhose aesthetically have little to do with each other. However itʼs in Couwenbergʼs 3D collar inspired pieces where we can see visual similarities. Here they are both working with subjects that can be seen from every angle by the viewer and they both use those three dimensions in different ways. For Ichiuji it instils the fact that her figures are unreal, they are on stages in the very strict, ordered and clinical world of a gallery space. She says, “A stage implies a line or an edge or boundary that is not meant to be crossed and delineated a space for action. My figures exist within the boundaries but they are longing to cross them.”26 This element of story telling and performance is something that her and Couwenberg share and it takes their work from the physical to the philosophical in the minds of the viewer. Couwenberg uses her three dimensional pieces to play with size, creating huge collars allowing the viewer to walk around and be dwarfed by them. In this way it is the same stage we see Ichiuji using, Couwenbergʼs pieces do not want to leave the stage though, instead they take up as much of it as possible. She uses the space of a gallery to enlarge womanʼs work that is otherwise delicate and small to epic proportions where every detail is visible, the size is the stage. The three dimensions take both their work from craft to art and place it in a gallery space to be viewed thought provokingly. Although they now both work in America, their backgrounds are very different. Couwenbergʼs family sewing sessions are perhaps a more understandable way for her to arrive in textiles. But for Ichiuji it was the books in her parents house where she became inspired by art, looking at the work of people like Salvador Dali, 27 drawing clear lines between her unsettling style and the abstract work of the master of illusion. Her more artistic influences are very different to the fashion background of Couwenberg and enforce why the techniques they use are so different. Machine embroidery appears as a natural transition for someone between making clothes and patterns to art. Whereas fabric sculpture needs an understanding of form, which Ichiuji takes from her dance background, as well as an eye for artistic execution, which we see evidence of throughout her work.
TOP LEFT: Biased Point, 1996, Annet Couwenberg TOP RIGHT: Untitled 4, 1996, Annet Couwenberg LEFT: Public Apparel/Private Structures, 1994-95, Annet Couwenberg.
However, they have both come to the conclusion that the role of women in the modern world is something that affects everyone – not only women but also the men they interact with in everyday life – and have chosen to explore this very important issue within their work. Especially the relationship between the exterior and the interior, which is noted about both of them as artists, Couwenberg is said to be interested in the relationship, “between exterior form and interior meaning.”28 Ichiuji also talks about this idea herself, “the notion that the essence of a person can be found on the outside is both intriguing and troubling.”29 From Couwenbergʼs starting point of clothing and the constraints of underwear on the body, she explores the external idea of beauty with the internal feeling of pain and discomfort. It relates to the idea of “One must suffer to be beautiful”30, which is even more prevalent in the age of mass media and wide, access to plastic surgery. Whereas Ichiuji takes it to the next level not only the use of clothing but how this effects womenʼs internal thoughts about themselves and how they portray this externally through the posture she has them hold, or the manner in which they conduct themselves – staring into mirrors, 31 highly sexualised, 32 or conforming to traditional gender roles. 33 Although they are two very different artists it is clear that both Annet Couwenberg and Melissa Ichiuji are trying to portray a message to do with the modern women. The use of textiles, because of itʼs history and gender connotations allows them both to do this excellently and in very individual ways. They both engage with the idea of, “correcting the art worldʼs low regard for fabric as a serious fine art medium.”34 which is important as a contemporary artist, working in a world where equality for men and women has come along a way but isnʼt there quite yet.
LEFT AND BELOW: Garden Party, Melissa Ichiuji 2007
Conclusion Every person has different memories connected with textiles; whether thatʼs from their mothers sewing sessions like Annet Couwenberg, or from found objects like Melissa Iciuji. The fact that every material and every technique comes with so many connotations for so many different people is something that I need to think about every time I make a piece of art. For me the reaction is as important as the aesthetics and message behind the piece. Both Annet Couwenberg and Melissa Ichiuji play with this idea in a way that raises a lot of questions around the medium itself, usually that to do with the idea of female. I consider myself a modern feminist and feel that as I am drawn more and more to textiles as my media of choice that this message is integral to the art I create with it. Having been educated from a point of view where more traditionally male mediums such as painting and drawing have been favoured, for me using textiles is about reverting this. In my own work, having started by making protest art, being inspired by feminism has taken it towards the final piece. I tried looking into different aspects of being female, from the base in my initial project on lust and gluttony. Starting with media and advertising images, I felt a little alienated from the subject so to bring it back to a personal level I thought identification was the way to go. Last year in my photography project I looked into the idea of identity and how we are and arenʼt able to create our identity because of its independence on other people. In relation to feminism it became more about self-perception and how female ideologies are implemented in womenʼs perception of themselves. I turned to traditional methods and went to a life drawing class, to try and understand the aesthetic fundamentals of my subject. This really made me think harder about what we control and what we donʼt. Stripping away everything that has been forced onto women by media and outside influences only left the personal internal conflicts and the body. In this stripped down aesthetic state I wanted to do something that was less serious as a message, moving on completely from the serious messages from my earlier investigations into politics. Textiles is a new area of art and like photography, is beginning to become popular as the establishment realise how many new questions it has to raise. Both Couwenberg and Ichiuji and almost all of the female artists I have researched are striving towards the equality of men and women, of painting and textiles in the art world and elsewhere. It makes it an exciting medium for a young female artist like myself, to investigate further and so I think itʼs the perfect area to look into in relation to a top based on passions and obsessions.
ABOVE: Close up of final piece.
BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. J. Howard Millerʼs poster from 1942, http://www.pophistorydig.com/?p=877 accessed on 10th November 2010 2. Banksy Official Website, http://www.banksy.co.uk/ accessed on 10th November 2010 3. Premiered at Sundance Festival on January 24, 2010. Directed by Banksy produced by his studio, Paranoid Pictures 4. The Subversive Stitch, by Rozsika Parker. Revised edition published in 2010 by I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, ISBN 978 1 84885 283 9 5. Taken from a story by Jane Gardman called ʻDead Heatʼ, published in Cosmopolitan magazine in July 1981. Found via, see 4. 6. See 4, page 13 7. Contemporary Textiles, the fabric of fine art, published by black dog publishing ISBN 978 1 908155 292, page 139 8. Article by Adrian Searle in the guardian. Viewed online here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/oct/14/damien-hirstpaintings-wallace-collection on 11th November 2010 9. The Craftitivst Collective Manifesto: “To expose the scandal of global poverty, and human rights injustices through the power of craft and public art. This will be done through provocative, non-violent creative actions.” available via their website: http://www.craftivist-collective.com/ accessed on 11th November 2010 10. Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting, published by Museum of Arts & Design 2008, ISBN 978 1 85149 568 9, page 48 11. See 10 12. Contemporary Textiles: The Fabric of Fine Art, published by Black Dog Publishing Limited, London 2008 ISBN 978 1 906155 29 2, page 124 13. See 12 14. Sculpture, Fiber, and Feminist Identities in Art: Annet Couwenberg: Emblems of Containment by J. Susan Isaacs, Associate Professor of Art History, Towson University, Towson, MD. 15. See 14 16. Annet Couwenberg, See 10 17. See 10 18. See 14 19. Interview with Melissa Ichiuji by Stevel Psyllos for NYArts Magazine, downloaded from her website: http://melissaichiuji.com/reviews.php on 18th November 2010 20. See 20 21. From Melissa Ichiujiʼs Statement of Work, found at: http://melissaichiuji.com/statement-of-work.php on 18th November 2010 22. Viewed online in the TATEʼs archives here: http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?workid=12718 on 19th November 2010
23. Examples: Vladimir Nabokov始s novel Lolita where the young girl becomes seductress. The work of Egon Schielle or the photography of Will McBride. 24. See 12, page 30 25. From Macbeth my William Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 7. Spoken by Lady Machbeth. 26. See 19 27. See 19 28. See 14 29. See 19 30. Popular French saying, 驶Il faut souffrir pour 锚tre belle始 31. Forgotten Girl, Melissa Ichiuji viewed here: http://melissaichiuji.com/sculpture.php on 19th November 2010 32. Kissie Kissie, Lesser Madonne, Melissa Ichiuji viewed here: http://melissaichiuji.com/sculpture.php on 19th November 2010 33. Lesser Madonna, Mother Sucker, Shape Sorter, Red Tutu, Melissa Ichiuji viewed here: http://melissaichiuji.com/sculpture.php on 19th November 2010
All photos via the respective artists websites.
Published on Sep 24, 2011
As part of my A2 project on Passions and Obsessions I had to write a comparative essay on two textile artists. I chose Annet Couwenberg and...