Janet Taylor Pickett created these amazing paintings, which I saw at the Morris Museum in NJ. Her use of dresses as powerful symbols really resonated with me - so much of my art deals with clothing. In her great show at the Montclair Museum, she morphed dresses into architecture (something I will never do as successfully as she does, but I keep trying).
I found a dress shape, and used it to experiment with photos of some of my older art. I knew I wanted a lighter dress shape on a darker (more menacing) background. In my Tsunami piece, I had used keys and keyholes to represent homes, and decided to repeat that motif here. I discharged key shapes onto dark fabrics and sewed together a dark, map-like background. Then I took my old nightgown...
...and used my trusty photoshop to add lighter patches with printed keyhole images.
Security (2012 or 2013...not sure) 70"h x 42"w
This is the epitome of anxious fear. Her whole body/dress is an inward clutch. The background keys and the dress keyholes have a sexual connotation and the ripped sections of the dress suggest violence.
Her fear is embedded in her: safety pins and garter clips, clothespins and even salad tongs try to hold her safe. Which brings us to...
Never Enough (2013) 74"h x 28"w
No, no matter how hard we try, we will never be truly, absolutely safe...and we will buy any device that promises that safety. I have a theory: in past generations past, we saw actual, real people more than we saw printed images of people. Now, we see hundreds of perfect photo-bodies for every real person we encounter, and our perception of beauty has been warped by the disconnect. In the same way, we no longer endure the horrors of war, famine and pestilence, but we are inundated with images and stories of every possible catastrophe every minute of the day.
Maybe that's why we're so fearful. We cling tightly..
..and our heads explode with passwords, PINs, codes and combinations. it will never be enough.
If you're interested in the process, take a look:
The white background is constructed with lengths of snaps and zippers, and the hanging rod is built into the top of this fairly heavy piece.
Over the years, I keep coming back to the idea of security: what makes us feel safe? There are no plagues, famines or invading hordes rampaging into our homes (yes, there's AIDS and ISIS and the A-bomb, but for most of us lucky people, these are dangers we read/hear about, not endure personally). Yet we are anxious, insecure, afraid....why? And how do we cope?
Security Blanket 2009 (46"h x 26"w)
Many cultures have developed their own symbolic forms of protection. Even today, some people think a rabbit’s foot or a four-leaf clover will bring them luck. This ‘blanket’ is encrusted with every possible protective device, for maximum security:
It has mirrors, coins, buttons and bells to deflect the evil eye; heavily embroidered seams to keep evil from getting in; multiple patterns (in the belief that evil spirits would have to“read” each pattern before getting through); broken lines (because evil travels in straight lines); embroidered flowers and fruits, and cowrie shells, to enhancing fertility: religious medals, scapulars and rosaries to gain divine protection; amulets and pouches of magical charms.
In the British Museum in London, I saw a garment which was totally embellished in Arabic writing and symbols. In a pre-literate culture, the written word holds great power, and the markings were thought to protect the wearer.
When my local library was switching over to digital information, I asked what they did with the old cards: they generously gave me thousands. After sorting the cards according to color and size, I machine sewed them into the two garments. With their stamps demonstrating such extensive reading, I imagined these garments to have great protective power.
In the pocket, a library card has the title, Talismanic Tunic, and an explanation. This colorful one is called Literacy Jacket, and they were both constructed around 2006.
African hunting jackets are embellished with magical items not merely to protect, but to aid the hunter in the quest.
(Treasure) Hunting Jacket (36"h x 27"w)
Inspired by one I saw at the NYC Tribal and Textile show one year, I created a jacket for hunting at garage sales. It has many small woolen pockets and replicas of antique sewing rollups (each containing some garage-sale treasure). The old tweed jacket (which I turned inside-out) came from a thrift shop. The jacket is encrusted with buttons, religious medals, keys, tools, and other objects found in years of gathering. One sleeve fold has a small African sculpture, wearing a hand sewn hunting jacket, to give tribute to the source.
I tried using another tweed jacket to address anxiety and fear, but it never quite came together: