The Horror of Tradition
AndrewShire Gallery presents The Horror of Tradition, a group exhibition by artists Sophia Allison, Robert Fontenot, Starlie Geikie, Evelyn Serrano and Liz Young whose idea-driven artworks carry the memory and materiality of traditional needlecraft practices such as hand sewing and embroidery.
The exhibition will consist of works that show how needlecraft tradition has attained presence and conceptual reading in the contemporary art object. Nearly 20,000 years ago, clothing, shelters, boats and other functional items were produced by using delicate sewing needles made of bone and thread fashioned from plant or animal fibers. Sewing was also used to decorate articles that conveyed values and beliefs. Arguments emerged that countered how art and philosophy fitted to craft or fabrication technique. In the later half of the 20th Century, conceptual art worldwide, which had become more concerned with the ideas haunting the art object than with its materials or craft, started to reexamine fossilizing practices like needlecraft. This show pursues a few recent needlecraft applications.
Sophia Allison makes wrestling masks and capes from pantyhose, toilet paper wrappers, sanitary napkins, envelops, felt and fabric. In addition to these sewn physical structures, Allison also sews over her paintings. Red Luchador with Flora Pattern is an acrylic, enamel and thread portrait of a Mexican wrestler on watercolor paper. The addition of thread foliage sewn into the surface of the painting diffuses the intensity of the tough-looking wrestler, while it activates a newer psychological condition.
Robert Fontenot filters his ideas for the series titled The Dictionary of Earthly Delights through hand-embroidered words on cotton, linen and silk. The emotional immediacy imparted by these small samplers enhances both language and idea. In another Fontenot piece titled America the bu-tee-fide, a battered American flag is covered with cheerful foliated fabric and cotton flower appliqués in an attempt to charm us from its shreds, tears and stains, and to help us forget troubled or unlucky times.
Starlie Geikie's needlework is not to be taken lightly; she comes from a very long line of needlewomen going back for generations. The Melbourne native makes embroidered images of female actors in their peak cinematic moments of anxiety as shown in Hollywood horror films. The work explores Hollywood's production of vulnerability and fear in the stereotypical female as victim. Works like Carrie offer a glimpse into how historical pre-Freudian gender rolls still linger in contemporary society.
Evelyn Serrano tours the location near her upcoming exhibition seeking a homeless person from whom to buy a shirt. She photo-documents the transaction then modifies the shirt using an iconic artwork as the centerpiece. The design is hand embroidered on the shirt's fabric using the time-honored needle-and-thread process which ties her idea to traditional practice. The work bears on the human body as a site for social exchange and accountability in the face of ongoing hope and injustice.
Liz Young creates images of farmland pests that have been sewn to magazine covers. The covers depict the illustrated pest's coveted farm or field. In another work, an upside down vintage American flag signals distress; the terror is amplified by Young's use of needle-crafted birds shown flying in fear with their threads dangling and dripping down the front of the flag. Young also offers paper archery targets with black thread outline drawings of hunted forest animals sewn into them.