*To celebrate the open submission period of GirlSense & NonSense, we feature weekly spotlights of female artists who have inspired the issue’s theme. Let us introduce you to these talented women and their art, and let them inspire your own creativity.
My grandmother first taught me to embroider when I was a young girl and I only recently took it up again. My fingers remembered and it wasn’t long before I was weaving the needle in and out of the soft cotton, tracing simple patterns and tugging gently at the stitches to fuse floss and fabric. My grandmother told stories of my great-grandmother, her perfect satin stitches, and how she always wore a thimble.
There is a legacy of embroidery in my family and an even larger history of embroidery and womanhood. Until the mid-19th century, embroidery or needlework was essential to “feminine training” and was viewed as merely decorative and trivial. Even now, needlework is weighted by archaic notions of female accomplishments and identity.
And then there is Ghada Amer. I only recently discovered Amer’s work and was immediately drawn to several pieces featuring images and phrases distorted by embroidery and long pieces of thread.
Tour Cheim & Reid Gallery to view Amer’s spring 2014 exhibition entitled “Rainbow Girls”:
Several pieces captured in the video above feature portraits of women open-mouthed, naked, etc. yet abstracted with wisps of thread and embroidered texture.
By using the traditionally feminine, domestic activity of embroidery to re-contextualize her subject, Amer confronts cultural objectification of the female form, repositioning it for a feminist dialectic. [Quote via]
As several other critics have noted, Amer also uses embroidery and the weight of its history to respond to the dominance of men in the history of painting, as the long lines of colorful thread mirror strokes of paint. And further layering and obstructing Amer’s portraits, are embeddings of feminist phrases. In the piece The Rainbow Girl, 2014 Simone de Beauvoir’s words “One is not born but rather becomes a woman” unsettle the image and constructed notions of female identity.
Using language and embroidery distortions, Ghada Amer’s work allows us to experience the weight of these layered abstractions and necessitates the importance of changing our conceptions of the female body and identity.
A few days ago, I purchased more fabric and thread. Tomorrow, I’ll embroider a pink flower, drink tea from a dainty cup, and watch Frontline’s recent episode on “Losing Iraq”. Oh, and also run a magazine.