more from Elizabeth Barber:
APRON 23”w x 51”h Date: 2006
I found an old apron (probably from the 1950’s) at a garage sale, and embellished it with some of the items used to decorate European fringed aprons: coins, shells and beads. As ancient crafts workers used the elements available to them, I added in domestic elements found today: cooking tools, buttons and zippers. The top of the apron has photo transfers of ancient apron images.
When I made this apron, around 2006, I found very few images when I googled "Mordvinian bride apron" or "Eastern European String skirt". The figure on the left is from Women's Work, and it was the only (relatively) modern one I saw. Now, ten years later, I found the woman on the right, and many others.
Where did they all come from? Are traditional Eastern European garments now....trendy? Can't be. No idea why there are so many more photos available, and even aprons for sale:
I see these young ladies wearing elements of traditional costumes, and my first reaction is WTF?? But hey, however history is preserved, and honored, even with stiletto heels, well, why not? As for me, I decided to create this:
A DRESS FOR ELIZABETH BARBER Size: 24”w x 51” 2006
In her studies of ancient sites, Elizabeth Barber notes that the textiles themselves have usually disintegrated: the only evidence of their existence is the tools used to make them (such as clay loom weights) and sometimes their fossilized imprints in clay. For this piece, I made clay weights, which I imprinted with the names of ancient textile sites (using loose keys from an old typewriter). I pressed small crocheted doilies into clay, then cut away the excessto form ceramic doilies. These were fired in a kiln, then hand sewn onto the dress, along with old buttons, beads, bones and cotton doilies. The dress was found at an estate sale in Nutley, NJ.
In my last post, I mentioned the book Women's Work, by Elizabeth Barber. She explains how prehistoric female images evolved into embroidered patterns. How an ancient Minoan figure became Berehina, the Slavic protecter of women and fertility:
But it was in Embroidery of All Russia by Mary Gostelow that I learned how the goddess had been downgraded to 'Baba, holding a chicken"
Baba, huh? holding a chicken? OK.....
I created a ceramic version of the Minoan figure, and sewed her emerging from under the woolen figure; gave her a double-headed Russian eagle to hold in one hand and a chicken (copied from a children's coloring book) in the other. I embroidered an apron with a fish (see earlier image in this post) and used embroidered Ukrainian flowers at her feet.
But...when I showed this image at a college colloquium, I realized that the students and professors weren't familiar with any of the symbols. I struggled to figure out how I could incorporate that information, and remembered some medieval paintings of the saints...
The portrait of the saint would be in the center, surrounded by smaller paintings showing scenes from his/her life. Here, St George and the dragon. What if I used the same idea to explain the symbols in my piece? Make a..frame of reference (sorry).
Berehina (44'h x 47'w) So I printed out images of the carvings, textiles, the drawings from the books, and even (in the upper right corner) a picture of a saint with an explanatory frame. Looking back, I cringe at the lack of technical sophistication in the execution. In my next life, I'll re-do it.