Using soft materials and found objects, I create tactile objects and installations about human relationship. I redefine needle art techniques and transform the everyday into works of contemporary relevance. There is a presence of the maker in the shape of thousands of stitches, hand-wrought forms and, as in my collaborations, the orchestrated actions of many. Influenced by my travels, I draw from historical and cultural experiences around me that extend from my neighborhood to time spent in the Far East. Impressions from a residency in Shenzhen China, where citizens are experiencing radical social changes, resulted in works about the universal and confusing contradictions of identity and place. A fellowship in Thailand found me sharing a mudhouse with scorpions, centipedes, and more. These strange bedfellows feared me as much as I did them, yet over time a mutual respect developed as we each accepted the other – with the realization that neither my multiple-legged roommates nor myself are alone but part of a larger whole.
The exhibit Unidentifed Woman engages with the collections at Historic Northampton and the forces that have shaped women’s identities since the 18th century, by fusing personal experiences and ideologies into sculptures that contribute to the progress of both art and feminism. For this project, I strove to create headwear that infers an inner vitality and self awareness on the wearer – thereby redressing fashion’s oppression.
Headwear has long played a role in indicating the class, status and occupation of the wearer – enforcing conformity and erasing individuality. From the 18th century poke bonnet which restricted women’s field of vision, to today’s hijab, women in particular have been subjugated to fashion dictates and social norms. These headwear sculptures offer a vehicle for a subversive coded language which addresses the play between women’s visibility and invisibility.
Struck by the poignant anonymity of the museum’s daguerreotypes, I scoured flea markets for similar images which I then altered with raw and idiosyncratic stitches that call attention to the Unidentified Woman whose name is long forgotten. This obsolete photographic process aligns with today’s social media; both are means that allow people to alter their public identity through the curation of carefully chosen images. In this way I stitch together past and present identity politics to provide an alternative chronology where expression replaces suppression and sewing equals activism.