November 12 – December 17, 2016
Public Pool, Hamtramck
Images by P.D. Rearick, Artography, LLC, unless otherwise indicated
Of the many qualities that may compromise one’s womanly appeal, there is none so negative as the crime of complexity. Be ditzy, if you must, be a stone cold bitch—but never dare to embody conflicting sentiments! Who would be willing to do all the work of figuring you out, if you have the audacity to contain multitudes?
As a materialist—working from found objects encountered by chance in the world—this work evolved intuitively out of objects, including my lifelong collection of exclusively female PEZ dispensers. In assembling a set of female archetypes, these few lucky ladies who made the commercialization grade seemed to be as good a jumping-off point as any. Primarily a fiber artist, I feel most comfortable working with fabrics, so I began to seek out preexisting manifestations of these characters on fabric, to act as the material basis of the pieces you see presented here. In every case, my expectations about what a character represented were greatly impacted by what material was made in her likeness.
For example, consider that the only standalone fabric for Princess Leia—diplomat, politician, and defiant badass—focuses on perhaps her most iconic line: “Help me. You’re my only hope.” I took up this character assuming she represented leadership qualities, and found instead that she is endlessly leveraged for cheap effect as the damsel in distress. How many strong women have you marginalized in your mind or in your actions, for the honor, the emotional vig, of coming to their rescue?
Six spotlight pieces will attempt to unpack some of the complexities of these seemingly one-note characters: Sexpot, Damsel in Distress, Bitch, Smart Girl, Perfect Partner, and Superheroine. What does a superheroine do after a long day of helping other people? Do bitches deserve love? What makes a perfect partner? Where is the line between smart and too-smart-for-your-own-good?
Additionally, two pieces deal with the six archetypes collectively. “The Betting Pool” places these archetypes in competition with each other – you are welcome and encouraged to exchange $1 for a duck sticker to place your bet on the mallard race! “Double Wedding Ring Quilt” synthesizes these warring factors, crafting something closer to the true complexity that lies at the heart of a living, breathing woman.
I regard art as an opportunity to understand that the world around us is not whole cloth, but a calculated presentation of ideas. What happens when we start to pull at the threads of these identities? Girlfriend Material treats these found objects and archetypes as the raw material for reconfiguration into works that are as complex and challenging as we know ourselves to be.