“Our positionality is not fixed, but relational, a constantly moving context that constitutes our reality and the place from which values are interpreted and constructed” - Diane Wolf (Geiger, 1990, 171).
Maps and charts are drawn for many different purposes. Since Descartes’ coordinate system of describing position using line, area and points, we have been able to locate ourselves in physical space and identify patterns within these systems. Not so straightforward is charting social position.
Through the metaphorical lens of dress (or undress) as it relates to identity, I am considering the positionality of women by way of overlapping cultural references from art history, literature, and film. Controversial moments throughout history, such as the infamous Salon des Refusees of 1863, help us to see the awkwardness and arbitrary value associations assigned by social convention. I am especially fascinated by paintings which have been revisited numerous times by various artists throughout western civilization – in particular those which have provoked social controversy. It is at this positional boundary – the boundary where conventionally appropriate meets inappropriate – one can see struggles of position, value and power.
From the standpoint of a woman who often “doesn’t know her place,” I have sought to navigate my own understanding through cultural space with these paintings.