Some of my very earliest pieces were based on ancient goddess figures. Now, being able to return to these figures, in wool, is a kind of homecoming for me. For many years, my art was totally set in female history. Then came the breakthrough from women's history to the history of communication (my this too shall pass tiles and my tablets). Now, starting with the handprint resist, I've found a way back to all the old images.
And internet images have improved since I first looked. Elizabeth W. Barber (Women's Work, the first 20,000 years) wrote that a high def photo of the Venus of Laspugue actually showed the details of her ancient string skirt (right). Writing as a person who searched old library card catalogs for information, I am astounded to have instant access to this incredible image. Earlier, all I had found were photos like the ones on the left, awful images of reproductions!
What if I take the Venus of Lespugue and give her an ancient loom? The small black dots on the bottom of the strings are the ceramic loom weights.
I could remove the lions on either side of this goddess from Catal Huyuk, and give her sewing machine figures...? No, no Diane...think
It was because of the string skirt that I became interested in bog bodies (ancient bodies and clothing) preserved in bogs. Are you unfamiliar with bog bodies? Click here for more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bog_body As rural people cut into the peat bogs for fuel (in Ireland, they still use dried peat to heat some houses) they would find these ancient, remarkably preserved bodies. A famous example, Egtved girl, was wearing a skirt of twisted strings. This is the sort of history that keeps me riveted to my computer, searching for more images, more information.
The string skirt boggles my mind: seen in the most ancient art, found on Bronze Age bodies and worn up until modern times - such a tangible link to our past!
A quick side note here - long ago, I read that the children's song ring around the rosie actually went back to the time of the plague, in the middle ages. This was one of the things that inspired me to investigate the past. New research says that's a mistake. Not a link to the past. Not from the time of the plague. Criminy! another peg kicked out from my understanding of reality.
But - in going through the string skirt stuff, I came across another bog body, Huldremose Woman. A Bronze Age woman, found fully dressed in beautifully woven cloth. Chemical analysis reveals that originally, her skirt would have been blue and her shawl was red. I can visualize working on a piece that incorporates that information, hopefully more elegantly than this:
And then there's the Bernuthsfeld Man. His well-preserved tunic was constructed of 45 separate pieces of cloth; with 20 different types of fabric and 9 different weaving patterns. Remember - this was back in the Bronze Age.
The site where I found this information only had it in German - the translations are the best I could get from Google translate.
The front of the tunic is on the right; the back is on the left. Like Japanese boro, Bronze Age cloth would have been very valuable, requiring so much work to create. Every small piece would have been saved and used.
How could I possibly show this in my boiled wool? Can boiled wool convey the many ancient cloths, or am I pushing it to do something that won't fit? I need to go run a few experiments.
While that wool is boiling, one last thought: the Weerdinge Men.
This 2,000 year old bog couple was found in 1902 in the Netherlands. At first thought to be a man and a woman, testing revealed they were 2 men. What if I 'dressed' them (with the color transfer of many different wools) as Boro and Bernuthsfeld?
I would just love to show the relationship between the patches of the Bronze Age and the Japanese: two entirely different cultures using such a similar clothing technique, across so many centuries.
OK! No idea if it will work or not, but I gotta do it. Bye!