Thursday, December 9, 2010
It's Been A Long Time
Top: "Mrs. Bradley Baker's Burgundy Silver", 24" x 72", watercolor on paper
Bottom: "A Full Set Needed", 30" x 44", watercolor on paper
Similar to the last post, it has been a long time since I have posted. Graduate School is Go!, Go!, Go!, and my blogging skills have been lacking. However, I'M BACK! For the next few weeks I will be posting the work completed over the Fall Quarter, to catch you up to speed.
For the past couple of months I have been fascinated with the etiquette of Southern Women, particularly that of my own family, and where that history and circumstance stands in my own life. Being a part of a conceptually driven and contemporary graduate program, I was often heavily questioned as I explored this path, as it seems to not only have been done, but is of little interest to those not raised in the Deep South of the United States. Below I have posted my final statement for the Fall Quarter, as it not only describes the above work to the best of my current ability, my answers all questions that were thrown at me for two months.
My work is aesthetically feminine, but is not feminist art. My work depicts different silver patterns of dinner forks in a larger scaled format, yet is not suffering from empty chair syndrome. My work is about a specific area, a specific way of life, but can be applied to any society. Why is this? Because my work gives grace to the personal experience of the universal everyday, depicting objects or routines that are often dismissed and through placement and scale makes the viewer contemplate the possibility of what a seemingly insignificant image can potentially possess.
My current body of work depicts several drawings for dinner forks, most in different patterns, some singular, and some in groups of two or three forks. Rendered in a minimal composition using graphite and watercolor on paper, the patterns of the silverware hold the most detail, immediately communicating with the viewer. The forks represent the “Southern Silver Zodiac”, a traditional collection of silverware patterns that a woman raised in a middle to high class family in the Deep South of the United States of America must at one point choose for her collection. What silver (flatware) a woman chooses defines her in Southern society. In the South traditionally there are twelve different silver patterns to the “Southern Silver Zodiac”(Schwartz, “The Southern Belle Primer: Or Why Princess Margaret will never be a Kappa Kappa Gamma”, Broadway Books, New York, NY, 1991, Pg. 40-43): Francis I (made by Reed and Barton), Grand Baroque (made by Wallace International), Burgundy (made by Reed and Barton), Rose Point (made by Wallace International), Buttercup (made by Gorham), Chantilly (made by Gorham), Strasbourg (made by Gorham), Acorn (made by Georg Jensen), Old Master (made by Towle), Eloquence (made by Lunt), Chrysanthemum (made by Tiffany), and Repousse (made by Kirk).
While to someone raised outside of the Deep South of the United States the above list might seem either daunting, another language in itself, and/or unnecessary to everyday life, a woman raised in the Deep South not only knows the majority of the list from a young age, but can decipher between the patterns and different place settings (an informal place setting consists of no less than seven utensils while a formal place setting uses eight utensils at a minimum). Focusing on the role of the woman in the Deep South, I am conscious of the feminist stance I dance on, and that I am not the first to depict tableware as a means to show the expectations of women amongst their society. For example, feminist artist Judy Chicago’s installation piece The Dinner Party (1974-1979) consists of a triangular shaped table with 39 place settings, representing 39 different women, and all perfectly set and unique, and littered with feminist symbols. The proper etiquette used for the place settings alone lends to Chicago’s goal “to represent modern woman's gradual independence and equality, though it is still not totally free of societal expectations (Koplos, Janet. "The Dinner Party Revisited." Art in America 91.5 (May 2003): 75-77)”. With that work in mind, in contrast my work depicts forks larger than life (For example, drawings Burgundy, Acorn, and Chantilly are each 6’ tall) in a minimalist composition void of feminist symbols, yet acknowledges the fact that women in the Deep South not only recognize the importance they place on social expectations as a whole but choose to have these standards take over their lives. They are not restrained like the women symbolized in Chicago’s work, but celebrate the etiquette of their culture with the freedom to do so.
That being said, I am interested in the extent of which a person, male or female, identifies with the etiquette and codes of their own society, to what extent they follow etiquette, if they are conscious of it, and why. I use dinner forks not only because of the importance placed on silver patterns by women of the Deep South, but because a fork in itself is a universal tool, an everyday object of the universal modern society. The forks reflect these facts, rather than stand in for them, thus thwarting the concept of the Empty Chair Art Syndrome. By using a universal object to reflect etiquette of a specific culture I allow outsiders of the culture to connect to the work, and also make a connection to their own rules of etiquette. In addition, in a sublime size I am also asking the viewer to reconsider an object that modern society views as an everyday tool, whose main use is for survival, rather than aesthetically please it’s owner.
All in all, my work questions etiquette on a personal and universal level, and the connection people make to the everyday routine of their lives. Objects, actions, and expectations combine to encompass our lives; my work shows how one society acknowledges that in hopes that the viewer in turn questions their own life and expectations.