Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care...
The theme for this exhibition was taken from a series by Lindsay Obermeyer which, in turn, was inspired by a text entitled "Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society" by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. (1) The title, Woman's Work?, in the context of art, brings to mind the traditional (acceptable) forms of artmaking by women such as knitting, crocheting, embroidery, etc. Endeavors such as these not only have had to overcome the stigma of "craft" but also their association with the feminine due to their ties to the home and to the family. Yet while our customary idea of family has changed and "sewing arts" have overcome their non-high art classification, there remains something inherently familial, homey often, about these particular art forms. The three artists chosen for this exhibition, Anni Holm, Mark Newport, and Lindsay Obermeyer, share both their process-knitting-as well as the use of knitting as a metaphor for our connection to one another.
Mark Newport knits several Costumes whose bright colors, often recognizable symbols, and shape are reminiscent of the super-masculine action heroes which picture largely in our childhood memories. The concept of action hero speaks to the traditional notion of husband and father as protector of the family. Not only do Newport's Costumes remind us of heroes battling outside forces but also of our interior world, our home. When juxtaposed with the medium of knitting the Costumes conjure memories of the warmth and safety sought in our domestic environment through their allusion to cozy blankets and warm sweaters. Due to the lack of an actual body to fill these Costumes, when exhibited, they appear passive as they hang limply from the gallery wall. Thus Newport creates performances which "activate" the Costumes by showing himself in the process of making and wearing them.
The connection of textiles to the traditional role of woman finds its strongest voice in the work of Lindsay Obermeyer. For Obermeyer's series entitled "Woman's Work" she addresses the relationship between mother and child. For example, in her piece Twirlers Obermeyer uses thread to create a sweater whose "breasts" extend and pool onto the gallery floor. The resulting image is one in which the viewer is invited to connect to the biological demands of motherhood as well as the reality of an unending bond/giving of parent to child. Twirlers also alludes to the demands upon one's time which can be problematic for an artist/parent. Historically, for women, a choice must be made between their artwork and their duties to their family. Obermeyer reconciles this dilemma by conflating the two.
- Barber, Elizabeth Wayland, Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1994.
About NEIU Art Gallery
The NEIU gallery is located at 5500 N. St. Louis Avenue in building E in the northwest area of the campus. Parking is free in parking lot F the night of the reception only. The Fine Arts Center Gallery is a visual exhibition space committed to showing innovative works of art in all media within a pluralistic, culturally diverse setting. Fall gallery hours are 10am-5pm Mon-Fri. Please call 773-442-4944 or visit our website at www.neiu.edu/~gallery/ for more information.