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ON THE HEM OF HERESY BY Kyra Berman G estring A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Art/Gender Studies u nder the sponsorship of Kim Anderson Sarasota, Florida May, 2013
! "" Jody, embodying conscientious diligence consideration and compassion, you have taught me to overcome with strengths of all shapes, colors and sizes Kelly, you have showed me the importance in doing what you love your support, assistance and concern have helped me do the same L eah your integrity and spirit precede you, yo ur strength and compassion will guide us Sheila y ou ha ve taught me to challenge and believe in myself and others, y our engagement with art and activism have informed my pers on, place and pursuit Jessie, model of kindness and strength t hank you for showing me t he value and beauty in the arts and crafts Sandy your arms and ears have supported me, your spirit and sincerity have encouraged me, our unfal t ering friendship will carry us Julia, y our constant belief in the importance of the creative and cause for collaboration g uided my interest in and pursuit of the arts, thank you Kim, Rick, Aron y our provocation and support h elped further my understandin g, d edi cation and belief in my project Professor Vaughan, thank you for your patient hours, critical concern and unwavering commitment to your art and your students t o all those who participated in my project, w ithout your c ontribution s this thes is would not have been possible
! """ TABLE OF CONTENTS Image List ...iv Abstract ...... v ii Artist Statement ........ vi ii Introduction ... ...1 Public Art Private Craft ...2 Embroidered Exchange ....7 Quilting, Questioning .....12 Collective Consciousness ...15 Crafting a Social Fabric .....21 Bibliography .....23 Images ... .....25
! "# IMAGE LIST Figure 1. Schapiro, Miriam. Connection,1978 Figure 2. Hammond, Harmony. Floor Piece V 1973. Figure 3. Amer, Ghada. Barbie Loves Ke n, Ken Loves Barbie 1995/2002. Figure 4. Shonibare, Yinka. Scramble for Africa 2003. Figure 5. Perry, Grayson. Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close 2012. Figure 6. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sight Lines: Julia 2012. Figure 6. a. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sight Lines: Julia (details) 2012. Figure 7. Amer, Ghada. My Nympheas 2011. Figure 8. Amer, Ghada. Sharazad 2009. Figure 9. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation (Installation View) 2013. Figure 9. a. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation : Shedding of the Uterine Lining 2013. Figure 9. a. 1. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation : Shedding of the Uterine Lining (detail) 2013. Figure 9. b. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation : Breast Cell in Development, 2013. Figure 9. b. 1. Berman Gestr ing, Kyra. Sexual Maturation : Breast Cell in Development (detail) 2013. Figure 9. c. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation : Hair Follicle Emergence 2013. Figure 9. c. 1. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation : Hair Follicle Emergence (detail) 2013.
! # Figure 10. Reichek, Elaine. Red Man ,1988. Figure 11. Reichek, Elaine. Sampler (Home Sweet Home) ,1992. Figure 12. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Quiltbag 2013. Figure 12. a. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Quiltbag (detail), 2013. Figure 13. AIDS Memorial Quilt Figure 13. a. AIDS Memorial Quilt (detail). Figure 13. b. AIDS Memorial Quilt (detail). Figure 14. a. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 14. b. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 14. c. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 14. d. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 14. e. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 14. f. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 14. g. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 14. h. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 15. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Poster for Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 15. a. Berman Gestr ing, Kyra. Poster for Menstrual Nation (Installation View), 2013. Figure 16. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Flyer for Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 17. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Pads constructed at Menstrual Nation 2013. Figure 18. a. Beuys, Joseph. 7000 Oaks 1982 Figure 18 b. Beuys, Joseph. 7000 Oaks, 1982 Figure 19. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Menstrual Nation (details of installation view
! #" in Isserman Gallery), 2013. Figure 20. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Stills from KCOMmercial 2013. Figure 21. Berman Ges tring, Kyra. Stills from DIY: Menstrual Pads 2013. Figure 22 a. Waltener, Shane. Sweet Nothings: An Intimate History of Cake Making 2005. Figure 22 a. Waltener, Shane. Sweet Nothings: An Intimate History of Cake Making (detail) 2005. Figu re 23 a. van Heeswijk, Jeanne. Valley Vibes 1998. View of Vibe Detector. Figure 23. b. van Heeswijk, Jeanne. Valley Vibes 1998. Interior View of Vibe Detector. Figure 23. c. van Heeswijk, Jeanne. Valley Vibes 1998. View of Community Map.
! #"" ON THE H EM OF HERESY Kyra Berman Gestring New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT The exclusive division of public and private realms carries gendered social, political and hi storical implications. T he persisting distinction of high masculine, fine art, from low ," feminine, applied craft has normalized patriarch al traditions in the American canon. Feminist interventionism challenges the stereotypical perspective of artist as male, genius and individual and art as non utilitarian and antisocial. In my exhibitio n thread, textiles and tactual engagement challenge residual dogmatic conventions. The incorporation of craft traditions invokes historically gendered hierarchies, upsetting boundaries between "high" arts, characterized by concept and aesthetics, and "low" arts characterized by labor and utility Using embroider y, quilting and other sewn handwork I am contextualizing the history and tradition of women's work with a conceptual consideration of contemporary gendered issues and p rejudice Feminist social pra ctice further challenges the binary of ar t and craft; f ocusing on action abo ve object. P articipant involvement is critical to my intent to call into question the contemporary institution alization and prohibitive access to art. Kim Anderson Division of Huma nities
! #""" ARTIST STATEMENT The political potential of art and the role of creativity in activism are important to my focus on inter subjective engagement as form, subject and context. Rooted in feminist concerns of value and hierarchy in artistic p raxis, I address the assumed division of craft and art as separate and unequal by framing my use of embroidery and quilting in a fine arts lens. Through textile and stitch work I address the role of utilitarianism and gendered boundaries in the definition of art o bjects as well as the contemporary place of the hand made in art. I attempt to further challenge these divisions by engaging in social practice as art. Feminist community engagement enables me to use artwork as a political force, engendering social change through aesthetic activism
! $ INTRODUCTION Through the use of craft traditions, I address both historical and contemporary concerns of gendered exclusion and value from art. Positioning my practice outside of the studio, I engage in community building as an artistic venture. Focusing on the creation of change as param ount to the creation of object, my work is concerned with addressing prohibitions from public and private spheres. This translation confronts power in the subversion of commodification, autho rship and access to art. Feminist activism and theory influence my creative practice as I draw from ideologies that explore the communal and social formation of knowledge and power over individualistic introspection. Informed by Bourriaud's theory of rel ational aesthetics th is engagement challenges traditional viewer object relations, permanence and the residual bourgeois access to art as an institution. F eminist theorists and critics, including Linda Nochlin and Laura Mulvey and artists, Ghada Amer, Ela ine Reicheck, Joseph Beuys, Shane Waltener and Jeanne van Heeswijk are of relevance to my studio practice T hree modes of production: embroidery, quilt making and the collective shape the body of my work Through this paper I will present a reading of t heir social history, their activist application and their relevance to feminist study. Employing feminist and art theory as moderators of my discussion, I will discuss how these traditions function as tools for my artistic practice as I explore their gende ring, marginalization and revolutionary capacity as catalysts for a contemporary collective artistic praxis.
! % PUBLIC ART PRIVATE CRAFT The patriarch al creation and documentation of Western art has normalized a misogynist understanding of who and what con stitutes art. Feminist inquiry has sought to expand our understanding of art history and respond to Linda Nochlin's question, "Why are there no g reat women artists ?" 1 A more inclusive history begins with understanding the social origin and reinforcement of problematic perspectives in art. Through my artistic practice I address t he convention of male artistic genius and the enduring institutional oppression based on the gendered division of public and private spheres in the art world. Historically, t he pu blic sphere is associated with men and masculinity, and the private with women and domesticity. Pursuit of the visual arts demands an access to the public realm. The active pursuit of an artistic education, apprenticeship and other opportunities is one of communication and exchange. The possibilities available to men in their ability to navigate the public realm afforded them great social capital. The great artists, aside from participating in the affairs of an academy, might well be intimate with members of humanist circles with whom he could exchange ideas, establish suitable relationships with patrons, travel widely and freely, perhaps politic and intrigue; nor have we mentioned the sheer organizational acumen and ability involved in running a major stu dio factor y, like that of Rubens 2 Prior to women's liberation, t he relegation of women to the private, domes tic life denied them opportunities to participate in the network and community of the art institution. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 Nochlin, Women, art, and power: and other essays 147. 2 Ibid, 164.
! & Throughout history, some women have been able to navigate the public sphere of the art world. It was common for these women artists to have a more practical "personal connection with a stronger or more dominant male artistic personality." 3 It is only by adopting, however covertly, the masculi ne' attributes of single mindedness, concentration, tenaciousness, and absorption in ideas and craftsmanship for their own sake, that women have succeeded, and continued t o succeed, in the world of art 4 Women could not escape the gendered division of ma sculinity and femininity as active agents in the art world. Women's navigation of the public realm of the art world was not enough to free them of their gendered expectation and assumed responsibility to the private realm of the home and domestic life. In addition to negotiating a perceived assumption of masculine personality traits, women's dedi cation to their art as an occupation was not respected ; rather it was viewed as a serious commitment to frivolous self indulgence, busy work or occupational th erapy ." 5 This reductive assessment denies the woman artist recognition of her intellectual and professional rigor. Additionally, "if the artist in question happened to be a woman, one thousand years of guilt, self doubt, and object hood would have been ad ded to the undeniable difficulties of being an artist i n the modern world ." 6 Strong notions of what it is to be a woman, and what it is to be a good woman were singular and limiting. The dedication to an occupation, especially one outside of the home, flou ted these norms. Female artists had to bear the social !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 Nochlin. Women, art, and power: and other essays 168 169. 4 Ib id, 170. 5 Ibid, 164. 6 Nochlin. Women, art, and power: and other essays 167.
! burden of external barriers and internalized norms in order to pursue a life dedicated to art. Nochlin's question, "W hy are there no great women artists," can be further understood in terms of the so ciohistorical division of art from craft 7 Power and privilege categorize the fine arts, their historical establishment, allowing for the perpetuated distinction and ensuing degraded value of the appli ed from the fine arts 8 The historical division of art from craft must be understood along gendered lines. As previously outlined, the high realm of fine arts is dominated by misogynist access, advantage and value. Craft, a "low art", is marked by labor and utility; it is seen as more egalitarian, as it was of greater accessibility to the general populace 9 Craft, as a learned skill, could be taught outside the institution of fine arts and therefore allowed for a greater accessibility to women. Fiber arts are of particular significance to women's tradition as t he medium is workable within th e home. Women's social relegation to the domestic allowed for extended training in the media. Through weaving, quilt making, embroidery and other textile arts women found the possibility for creative expression Producer material and use shape the dist inction between art and craft. "High" fine arts, t raditionally exclusively considered painting and sculpture are systematically made, consumed and theorized about by wealthy, upper class, educated males 10 Art is considered a product of "aesthetic" or "conceptual !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 7 Ibid, 147. 8 Buszek, Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art 3. 9 Ibid, 23. 10 Parker, Subversive Stitch 5.
! ( knowledge," while craft is understood as a product of "technical knowledge ." 11 Craft is considered an applied art, that of the working, lo wer class and females 12 Utility and function distinguish works of craft from a rt. Popular conceptions of fine artworks include paintings, statues and drawings and craftworks can include ceramics, furniture, pottery and textile works. The inclusion of craft in art was a deeply political act; American feminist artists in the 1960s c hallenged the gendered classification of fine and applied arts and the general absence in recognition and documentation of women 's subjectivity in exhibitions and canonical texts. They liberated craft practices from the devalued domestic sp ace of the home to a position of social worth in the fine art tradition. Artists including Miriam Schapiro and Harmony Hammond worked in the world of textiles, incorporating craft techniques and materials into their studio practice (Reckitt 21, 31). 13 14 These artists chal lenged notions of woman, femininity, domesticity, art and craft. Understanding the cultural history of women's work and demanding an integration of craft and art in systems of worth were important motivations for artists of the movement. This view opened the door for discussions of art and craft traditions and allowed succeeding artistic generations more liberty in their choice of media. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 11 Buszek, Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art 3. 12 Park er, Subversive Stitch 5. 13 See Figures 1 and 2. 14 Reckitt, Art and feminism 21 and 31.
! ) Decades after the initial insurgence of craft in art, the contemporary art climate is marked by an increase in textile use and other aspects of craft traditions. In today's information age the sensuous, tactile information' of craft media speaksof a direct connection to humanity that is perhaps endangered, or at the very least being rapidly reconfigured in our technolo gically saturated, twenty first century lives thus, demonstrating the extraordinary potential of these seemingly ordinary media and pro cesses. 15 Contemporary artists employ craft and its inherent as sociation with the hand made as a contextualization of con temporary culture. Artists of varying genders use craft to explore autobiography, history, globalization, urbanization and the culture of technology. "Many artists [are] drawing on craft culture do so in ways that revel in its boundar y crossing potential ." 16 Fiber arts as protest have continued to be used as political vehicles, taking on new life in dialogue with capitalism, individualism and isolationism. Craft has remained relevant as a vehicle for feminist consciousness in art. Expanding feminist dialog ues hav e seen paralleled exploration in craft expression. Artists such as Ghada Amer, Yinka Shonibare and Grayson Perry use craft as the primary artistic medium through which they can explore intersectionalities of contemporary feminist politics. 17 The hist orical and social implications of craft influence my engagement with embroidery and quilting as platforms to explore and express contemporary gender politics and the potential to redefine traditional notions of art to foster social change through collectiv e action. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 15 Buszek, Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art 1. 16 Ibid,12. 17 See Figures 3, 4 and 5.
! EMBROIDERED EXCHANGE Sight Lines: Julia Sexual Maturation series Throughout history embroidery has been used in dialog ue with dominant belief systems as a vehicle for political and social expression. Artists have incorporated embroidery into their artistic practice as a platform for discussing hierarchical and social injustices as seen in the work of Ghada Amer and Elaine Reichek Blurring the borders of art and craft, feminists challenged the exclusivity of art as an institution across divis io ns of gender, class, place and folk and high culture. 18 Using embroidery, I explore extensions of Laura Mulvey's theory of the male gaze in Sight Lines: Julia and cultural traditions and taboos concerning puberty in the series, Sexual Maturation 19 In t he 20 th century, a rtists began to explore the expressive and demonstrative potential of embroidery. Feminists used it as a tool of creative expression, its situation out side androcentric art furthered their political and social impetus. Feminis t use of emb roidery in art challenged the gendered implications and assumptions tied to the medium and tradition. Passivity and obedienceare the very opposites of the qualities necessary to make a sustained effort in needlework. What's required are physical and ment al skills, fine aesthetic judgment in colour, texture and composition; patience during long training; and assertive individuality of design (and consequent disobedience of aesthetic convention). Quiet strength need not be mistaken forvulnera bility 20 A s a form of critique, a rtists interjected defiant parodies on the instructional ritual of embroidery. Domestic law defining rules and conventions of femininity, as !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 18 Bernier, "In the Shadow of Contemporary Art," 41. 19 Mulvey, "Visual Pl easure and Narrative Cinema," 47. 20 Parker, Subversive Stitch 207.
! + well as the underlying attribution of femininity as negative are questioned in artist's explicat ion of these antiquated assumptions in relati on to contemporary conventions 21 B asing my studio practice in an undervalued craft tradition, aligned with femininity and domesticity, I engage with the persistence of the gendered hierarchy and value system in contemporary art and culture. Using this medium a s the platfor m of my work allows for further contemplation of gendered axes of discrimination in the conceptual content of my work. Sight Lines: Julia (Fig. 6) is a triptych of canvases with embroidered l inear portraits. A line stitched into the canvas reveals an overlapping abstraction of the figure. Although separated by frame, color and location, slack threads emerge from the eyes of each figure, connecting each panel through the visibility of sight lin es. This work has an affinity with that of contemporary artist, Ghada Amer, who employs embroidery in her artistic practice, both in sculptural work and in the creation of two dimensional planes. Ghada Amer's work parallels that of artists of the mid 20 t h Century Abstract Expressionists' in her line quality, color and direction of visual energy, as seen in My Nympheas (Fig. 7). She employs a similar use of grand scale in her canvases as Abstract Expressio nist painters. This demands that the viewer look at the work from afar; a push pull relationship forms, as the texture and materiality of her w ork draws the viewer in closer to a n encounter with otherwise unexpected imagery. She employs a defined stitch work, intentionally leaving long, loose threads on th e canvas. This creates a blurring effect mirroring that of paint drips. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 21 Bernier, "In the Shadow of Contemporary Art," 41.
! While Amer's embroidery paintings appear abstract from afar, they are comprised of overlapped erotic imagery, exemplified in Sharazad (Fig. 8) Her imagery depicts women displaying th eir genitalia, masturbating or e ngaging with other individuals. Drawing from pornographic magazines, Amer's work can be read as a subversion of male domination in the art historical and popular construction of images of women, a s she translates objects of male consumer culture through embroidery. Her use of line and manipulation of thread establishes a break in the male gaze, as what originates in male consumer culture is translated through a traditionally feminine, domestic medium to a place of empowerment Amer evokes the historical place of women in art as object s, not subjects, in her translation of imagery from low to high culture and medium from applied to fine art s Like Amer, I am engaging in a discussion of the patriarchal ar t tradition. In Sight Lines: Julia I address the historical discrimination of craft in the use of a traditional base for painting as the platf orm for embroidery. Puncturing a primed and stretched canvas, a symbol of the misogynist art tradition, with embroidered line is an im position of feminine traditions and identity upon masculine platforms of artistic discrimination. Sight Lines: Julia addresses the internalization of the gaze. Fragmentation of perception, self and persona are explored in the repetition of the same image within each panel. The differentiation of depictions of a singular individual across panels furthers this exploration of multiplicity. Self reflection is materialized through the extension of threads across the panel's eyes; the physical threads and sight lines interlock each canvas.
! $! Elaine Reichek is another contemporary artist who works within the textile tradition of the feminist movement. Using knitting and embroidery, she builds conceptual explorations of cultural analysis, history and literature 22 R eichek's interest in community and culture is rooted in historical and cultural bias through a n anthropological lens 23 Reichek's interest in American history and th e western depiction of cultures is exemplified by Tierra del Fuegians a series that explor es historical cultural expansion, using anthropological documentation as the source and inspir ation for her artwork 24 As Reichek used Martin Gsinde 's ethnographic photographs of the Fuegians, I source imagery of microscopic views of human cells in Sexual Maturation (Fig.9) 25 Drawing from existing documentation, Reicheck translates existing cultural artifacts through the use of craft practices. In Red Man (Fig. 10) Reichek installs her knitted reproduction alongside the original source image. The knitted replication is removed from context as it hangs singularly against the white wall. The figure is created to scale but flattened through Reichek's use of bold, solid colors. "The formal translation from photograph to knitting echoes the way information is passed between languages and shaped by t hem in different ways ." 26 Reichek's knitted form call s into question the acquisition of knowledge and position s understanding as culturally situated. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 22 "Images," Elaine Reichek. 23 Ibid. 24 "Tierra del Fuegians," Elaine Reichek. 25 Ibid. 26 Ibid.
! $$ Women's assumed inferiority in fields of objec tive reasoning, spe cifically women's participation in science, and the value of female medical health motivate Sexual Maturation Drawing from the visual vocabulary of the natural sciences, works in this series address the fragmentation of self identification inherent in the disparity between the lived and learned experience of bodies. By translating scientific imagery through embroidery, a dialogue regarding the place and value of women in science is prompted. Through her embroidery practice, Reichek explores gendered tradi tions of learning. She integrates this technique into her Native Intelligence series, speaking to the European and American tradition of using embroidery as a vehicle for instruction to girls, as seen in Sampler (Home Sweet Home) (Fig. 11) 27 In learning em broidery, girls were taught the alphabet, geography, and church ideals as well as gendered behavioral values of domesticity, pati ence and calm conduct 28 The use of embroidery in Sexual Maturation references the expectation of the mother to explain pubert y to her daughter. This domestic tutelage creates polemics with the distant and foreign landscapes depicted at cellular level, illuminated only in academia. The insularity of the embroidery tradition, our cultural dialogue of bodies and the academy of scie nce are at play in this series of works. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 27 "Native Intelligence," Elaine Reichek. 28 Ibid.
! $% QUILTING, QUESTIONING Quiltbag In the Western canon, f eminist artists and activists have successfully worked to increase accessibility in the arts to women and other disenfranchised populations, but the art inst itution has unrelentingly maintained the social stipulation of artist as an individual pursuit Feminists hoped to introduce a continuous flow of difference which would in process question and undermine the bourgeois identity. In this way it was hoped th at a different (other than bourgeois) process, practice and eventually concept of art would develop, or at least have a fighting chance. 29 Feminist theories focusing on the individual and the collective inspired me to further explore the gendered boundary lines of artistic individualism through a more active intervention. Quiltbag exemplifies my negotiation between the historically defined solitary pursuit of the artist, and the collaborative potential in feminist craft. Quiltbag (Fig. 12) is at once objec t and subject. A contemporary acronym meant for increased inclusivity, Q.U.I.L.T.B.A.G. stands for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Asexual/Allied, Gay/Genderqueer. Similar to Cleve Jones' coordination of the AIDS Memorial Quilt (Fig. 13), in Quiltbag community members submit ted designs for political patches that I then individually silkscreened and stitched into a quilt All patch submissions were asked to relate to the identity, experience, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 29 Marsh, "A Theoretical and Political Context," 101.
! $& oppression, e xpression, etc. of these identities. Quiltbag is a representative aggregate of disparate individualities that comprise an engaged community. Small workshops were held to foster participation and raise awareness about the project's goals which included ou treach at a local youth center for LGBTQ teens and tabling at a college campus Queer Pride event Participants received a limited number of patches in exchange for the use of their imagery. This social agreement allowed for the autono mous input of the comm unity while maintaining my sole creative execution and aesthetic decision making in the design and creation of the unified quilt. Quilt making is a prime example of the bridge between a solitary and communal creative pursuit. Historically, quilting has be en a means of exchange amongst women of both skill and knowledge. Quilting bees have allowed women an otherwise forbidden opportunity to gather en masse free from male leadership and intervention. A single individual traditionally executes the design work and majority of the construction of a quilt; through participating in q uilting bees, women were able to collaborate on finalizing stitches and learn new patterns and skills This tradit ion of collaborative skill sharing and community building is important to women's history, feminist activism, art history and queer communities alike. Quiltbag is a contemporary extension of the poli tical and social impetus of political power and collective action through quilt making. I draw inspiration from social project s like the AIDS Memorial Quilt which began in 1987, as an effort to raise awareness o f the impact of the AIDS disease and help record the
! $' names of lives otherwise ignored 30 The AIDS Memorial Quilt requires that participants design and construct their o wn quilts for inclusion in the project. These submissions are objects that chronicle the existence of loved one s who had AIDS; they are both a memory and a reflection. 31 The project generated immediate response and today has grown to include panels from every U.S. st ate and over 28 countries 32 It was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and is the largest community art project in the world. 33 Like the AIDS Memorial Quilt Quiltbag calls into question the division of high and low art. The integration of sil kscreened political patches draws on do it yourself (DIY ) and punk traditions, their integration into a quilt, as well as on traditional modes of women's craft. 34 The stitching together of these patches speaks to a place provided for individual voices and v ariation within a collective movement. The inclusion of many voices raises issues of authorship, as the participant and artist are integrated. The allocation of patches in a limited series raises issues of ownership, as the fragmentation of the patches i s returning the design to the participant and allowing for dispersion u ncommon to the convention of the singularity of fine art objects. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 30 "The AIDS Memorial Quilt," The AIDS Memorial Quilt The Names Project Foundation. 31 See Figure 13. a, b. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid. 34 See Figure 12.a.
! $( COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS Menstrual Nation Directing my application of social and political engagement through art, M enstrual Nation further locates my practice into the realm of the public. Nicolas Bourriaud describes the possibility of artwork as social interstice through the profound upheaval of political, cultural and aesthetic goals established by modern c onceptions of art 35 He identifies a new approach as operating within a form of relational aesthetics "which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent a nd private spac e ." 36 Relational aesthetics are based upon principles of art as representing, creating or provoking inter h uman connections 37 Operating within this theoretical framework allows for the integration of art and activism. The coalescence of creative and socia l motivations is critical to inciting social practice as art. This artistic praxis requires an applied cultural, political and artistic consciousness. "These cultural practices indicate a new social order ways of life that emphasize participation, challeng e power, and span disciplines ranging from urban planning and community work to theatre and the visual arts ." 38 Works can comprise mass gatherings, centers of shared service or skill, public free forums, etc Aesthetics are used as a tool for social change. Menstrual Nation (Fig. 14) an art event held on April 15 th 2013 introduced participants to basic sewing skills in the construction of reusable !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 35 Bourriaud. Relational aesthetics 14. 36 Ibid, 113. 37 Ibid, 112. 38 Thompson. Living as form, 19.
! $) menstrual products. All participants were provided with the materials necessary to create two pads, in addit ion to a packet which included a card detailing proper care and maintenance, a diagram of appropriate stitches, a pattern, and a list of frequently asked questions. Materials were provided free of charge in an effort to foster interest, increase accessibil ity and uphold the egalitarian principles of the project. Posters and flyers were distributed within the local community and a series of fine art prints of the same design were silkscreened as promotional material for the event. 39 Relational art practice d irects the focus toward shaping inter human engagements in time as opposed to a traditional intra human object relation. This undertaking of social gathering as art is in direct response to the institutionalization and commodification of art and the contem porary art industry. There is no singular artist or good that can be purchased at market value. In Menstrual Nation participants were asked to loan the pad they constructed during the event for display in the exhibition. 40 These objects function as relics and are returned to the participant at the end of the gallery show. Artist Joseph Beuys saw "the moulding [sic.] processes of arttaken as metaphor for the moulding [sic.] of society ." 41 Beuys viewed the political reality, social context and natural envir onment as integral to the creation of his works. Beuys believed that art making was a creative transformation of matter and that if matter could be understood as thought or social substance then society could be !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 39 See Figures 15 and 16. 40 See Figure 17. 41 Rosenthal, Joseph Beuys 26.
! $* change d through art 42 Expanding artistic def initions was critical to his practice. Beuys constructed works self titled as "social sculptures," believing that "everyone is an artist," whether that was realized in creation, the appreciation of, or by participating in art as process. 43 Beuy's practice exemplifies Krauss's definition of "sculpture in the expanded field," as it defies modernist notions of art as bound to an individual artist and a d efined medium 44 Beuy's piece, 7000 Oaks (Fig. 18) and Menstrual Nation explore the engagement with art as po ssible beyond observation in a gallery and instead as "time to be lived through, like an opening to unl imited discussion ." 45 Like Beuys, I challenge notions of the permanence of art objects, art as a commodity and art as separate from the contemporary cultu ral context. Through 7000 Oaks Beuys used art to directly act upon his political and environmental concerns. Passivity in the object viewer interaction is called into question, as is the artist's interpersonal exchange with the beholder. This praxis conce ives of "artist as a facilitator rather than a maker', one who regards art as a form of information exchanged be tween audiences ." 46 Beuys suggested that "each artwork is a proposal to live in a shared world, and the work of every artist is a bundle of rel ations w ith the world ." 47 Menstrual Nation uses community engagement to bridge social, political and artistic boundaries. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 42 Levi Strauss, "Beuys in Ireland: 7000 Oaks on the Hill of Uisneach," 102. 43 Jeffeires, "Loving Attention: an outburst of craft in con temporary art," 232. 44 Krauss, "Sculpture in the Expanded Field," 42. 45 Bourriaud, Relational aesthetics 15. 46 Jeffeires, "Loving Attention: an outburst of craft in contemporary art," 237. 47 Thompson, Living as form, 22.
! $+ As an art event, Menstrual Nation is concerned with the interaction and experience of the social gathering rather than on the specific ity of a physical form. 48 Relational artworks involve methods of social exchanges, interactivity with the viewer within the aesthetic experience being offered to him/her, and the various communication processes, in their tangible dimension as tools servi ng to link individuals and human g roups together." 49 Menstrual Nation like other social practice artworks, is an effort to remove art from the private sphere and return it to the public realm. Three art assistants were trained to help facilitate, a blood themed menu was developed in collaboration on with a caterer, and over thirty people were in attendance at the event. 50 51 Shane Waltener's Sweet Nothings: An Intimate History of Cake Making (Fig. 2 2 ) exemplifies the importance of engagement in arts. Includ ed in the collective show Ceremony Walterner's Sweet Nothings explores the "performative relationship between o bject and ritual ." 52 53 This installation offered visitors the opportunity to learn and practice cake making and decorating while reflecting on th e significance cakes hold to our cultural understanding of rites of pass age 54 "By asking visitors and members of the public to collaborate in the making of a work, he weaves their social interaction into the meaning ." 55 Interactivity and engaged participati on are critical to socially active artworks like Sweet Nothings and Menstrual Nation !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 48 See Figure 19. 49 Bourriaud, Rela tional aesthetics 43. 50 See Figure 14.d, h. 51 This engagement was supported through the creation of a commercial for the products (Fig. 20) and the incorporation of an instructional video in the exhibition space (Fig. 21). 52 See Figure 23. 53 Jeffeires, "Loving Attention: an outburst of craft in contemporary art," 235. 54 Ibid, 234. 55 Ibid, 233 234.
! $, Bridging barriers and blurring boundaries is inherent to activism and social practice art. Artists engage in social causes by situating their practice outside of the stu dio and into the complex realm of the p ublic arena 56 Social practice artists, like activists engage in attentive participation, critical discourse and community organizing 57 In a world of vast cultural production, the arts have become an instructive space to gain valuable skill sets in the techniques of performativity, representation, aesthetics, and the creation of affect. These skill sets are not secondary to the landscape of political production but, in fact, necessary for its mani festation. 58 Relationa l aesthetics and social practice art allow for the critical integration of the community in arts and creativity in social change. Menstrual Nation addresses feminist concerns of gendered marketing and sexual health. The construction of personal menstrual products licenses the personalization of one's hygiene products, allowing for an alternative outside the narrow cultural marketing surrounding the identities and experiences of individuals who menstruate. Mass marketed menstrual products pose serious healt h risks to users as they are treated with chlorine and bleach. In constructing one's own products, users are in control of the materials and chemicals they are using for their personal care. Issues concerning consumerism, capitalism and environmentalism ar e also fundamental motivations behind Menstrual Nation Over the course of an individua l's menstruating years they are likely to spend an average of $3,000 depositing between 11,000 and 17,000 disposable products !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 56 Thompson, Living as form, 7 8. 57 Ibid. 58 Ibid, 22.
! %! int o landfills 59 Constructing reusable pro ducts reduces the economic burden of menstruation. Use of reusable products also greatly reduces the negative environmental impacts inherent in the production and disposal of mass marketed menstrual products. Dutch artist, Jeanne van Heeswijk engages the public in her creation of socially executed artworks. In Valley Vibes van H eeswijk created "vibe detectors (Fig. 23 ), which are aluminum storage containers that acted as hybrid karaoke machine, radio station and recording studio on wheels 60 She installed these mobile objects on the streets of East London neighborhoods, asking residents to use the objects to record their stories, music, voices, lives, and other audible exemplars o f community culture 61 62 This action was an effort to document the character of the community by engaging the public in a creative venture, as the neighborhood was faced with gentrification and an overwhelming amount of corporate influx, which threatened the local atmosp here 63 Valley Vibes engages the public in a creative e ffort t o preserve a community's culture It's installation in a shared space redefines what can be art, who can make it and where it occurs. Menstrual Nation shares this dependency on the general population and public realm for the success of the project. It emp owers participants in an active skill share, where the objects of construction allow for individual navigation away from harmful gender, environment and consumer implications of mass produced menstrual products. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 59 "Party in My Pants." 60 Thompson, Living as form, 258. 61 See Figure 23.c. 62 Ibid. 63 Thompson, Living as form, 258.
! %$ CRAFTING A SOCIAL FABRIC Through the integ ration of the history of women's creative production into the pedagogic discourse of art, I identify the canonical art tradition as upholding implacable divisions of art from craft based on gendered social divisions of the public and private realm. Drawing from the use and place of embroidery, quilting and the collective, I situate my practice as both a continuation of a feminist history and a criticism in the continued failure of its acknowledgement. Recognizing the artistic merit in craft traditions and r eassessing the value of the feminine is critical to my use of feminism as a tool to broaden and bolster our cultural understanding and value of art, women and history. The appeal of art, to me, lies in its agency for communication. The potential for open ness in creative expression is integral to my interest and utilization of art as a form of exchange. Embroidery is historically a tool used in the education of girls, as mothers taught their daughters language, religion and geography through the acquisitio n of this skill. In Sight Lines: Julia I focus on perception, sight a nd technology as they s hape one's identification and formation of self. Sexual Maturation plays on the educational impetus of the medium, as it investigates the gendered fracturing of sel f in academic and socially taboo discussions of pubescence. Quilting is deeply tied to customs of sharing through collaboration and quilting bees. Exchange is inherent in Quiltbag as participants contribute designs and receive a set of patches in return. T he function of the collective, through its organization of cooperation, epitomizes the possibility of exchange in both the feminist and artistic praxis. Menstrual Nation draws from
! %% activist and artistic traditions in the engagement of the public in a creat ive and collaborative action working toward social change. Locating my use of visual language in craft traditions allows for the situation of a conceptual discourse in practices marked by empirical exchange. Individualization and institutionalization ha ve overtaken the contemporary art climate; the focus on art as a capitalist commodity has removed popular accessibility. Reconceiving the artist's relationship with object and viewer are necessary in deconstructing normalized oppression, in both art and th e social sphere. Reflective consciousness in a move toward engaged action and creative community building are paramount, as contemporary artists must move toward a praxis marked by egalitarianism and equality in the power of coll ective action to face syste mic oppression and effect epistemic change
! %& BIBLIOGRAPHY Bernier, Isabelle. "In the Shadow of Contemporary Art." In Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology 1968 2000 edited by Hilary Robinson, 41 43. Oxford, UK; Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, 2011. Bourr iaud, Nicolas. 2002. Relational aesthetics [Dijon]: Les Presses du rel. Buszek, Maria Elena. 2011. Extra/ordinary: craft and contemporary art Durham, NC: Duke University Press. "Image s, Elaine Reichek Accessed April 26, 2013. http://elainereichek.com/Images.htm Jeffeires, Janis. "Loving Attention: an outburst of craft in contemporary art." In Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art edited by Maria Elena Buszek, 222 240. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. Kraus s, Rosalind. "Sculpture in the Expanded Field." October 8 (Spring, 1979): 30 44. Levi Strauss, David. "Beuys in Ireland: 7000 Oaks on the Hill of Uisneach." Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 31 (2006): 101 104. Marsh, Anne. "A Theoretical and Poli tical Context." In Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology 1968 2000 edited by Hilary Robinson, 96 101. Oxford, UK; Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, 2011. Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." In The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader edi ted by Amelia Jones, 44 53. New York: Routledge 1993. "Native Intelligence. 1987 92, Elaine Reichek Accessed April 26, 2013. http://elainereichek.com /Project_Pages/12_NativeInt/NativeIntell igence.htm
! %' Nochlin, Linda. 1988. Women, art, and power: and other essays New York: Harper & Row. Parker, Rozsika. 1989. The subversive stitch: embroidery and the making of the feminine New York, NY: Routledge Party In My Pants. Accessed April 26, 2013. http://www.partypantspads.com/faq Reckitt, Helena, and Peggy Phelan. 2001. Art and feminism London: Phaidon. Rosenthal, Mark, Sean Rainbird, Cl audia Schmuckli, and Joseph Beuys. 2004. Joseph Beuys: actions, vitrines, environments Houston: Menil Collection. "The AIDS Memorial Quilt," The AIDS Memorial Quilt The Names Project Foundation Accessed April 26, 2013. http://www.aidsquilt.org/about/th e aids memorial quilt Thompson, Nato. 2012. Living as form: socially engaged art from 1991 2011 New York, N.Y.: Creative Time. "Tierra del Fuegians. 1968 87, Elaine Reichek Accessed April 26, 2013. http://elainereichek.com/Project_Pages/13_Tierra/TierraDelFuegi ans.htm
! "# IMAGES Figure 1. Schapiro, Miriam. Connection, 1978 60x60 inches. University of Iowa Art Museum. Collage, acrylic on canvas. 72x72 in.
! "$ Figure 2. Hammond, Harmony. Floor Piece V 1973. Mixed Media.
! "% Figure 3. Amer, Ghada. Barbie Loves Ken, Ken Loves Barbie 1995/2002. Embroidery on cotton. Collection of the artist.
! "& Figure 4. Shonibare, Yink. Scramble for Africa 2003. Fourteen life size fiberglass mannequins, fourteen chairs, table, Dutch wax printed cotton, 52 x 192 x 110 in.The Pinnell Collection, Dallas. Image courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, and James Cohan Gallery, New York.
! "' Figure 5. Perry, Grayson. Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close 2012. Tapestr y.
! () Figure 6. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sight Lines: Julia 2012. Embroidery on canvas. Two panels at 24 x 28", one panel at 24 x 34". Figure 6. a. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sight Lines: Julia (details) 2012. Embroidery on canvas. Two panels at 24 x 28", one panel at 24 x 34".
! (* Figure 7. Amer, Ghada. My Nympheas 2011. Embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 177.8x 223.5 cm. Goodman Gallery
! (" Figure 8. Amer, Ghada. Sharazad 2009. Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 66"x79". Figure 8.a. Amer, Ghada. Sharazad (detail), 2009. Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas, 66"x79".
! (( Figure 9. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation, 2013. Installation View.
! (+ Figure 9.a. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Ma turation: Shedding of the Uterine Lining, 2013. Embroidery on linen. 12" x 12". Figure 9.a.1. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Ma turation: Shedding of the Uterine Lining (detail) 2013. Embroidery on linen. 12" x 12".
! (# Figure 9.b. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation: Breast Cell in Development, 2013. Embroidery on linen. 12" x 12". Figure 9.b.1. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation: Breast Cell in Development (detail) 2013. Embroidery on linen. 12" x 12".
! ($ Figure 9.c. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation: Hair Follicle Emergence 2013. Embroidery on linen. 12" x 12". Figure 9.c. 1. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Sexual Maturation: Hair Follicle Emergence (detail) 2013. Embroidery on linen. 12" x 12".
! (% Figure 10. Reichek, Elaine. Red Man 1988. Knitted wool yearn and gelatin silver print, 165.1 x 177.8 cm
! (& Figure 11. Reichek, Elaine. Sampler (Home Sweet Home) 1992. Hand embroidery on linen, 30.5 x 40 cm.
! (' Figure 12. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Quiltbag 2013. 84" x 104".
! +) Figure 12.a. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Quiltbag (detail) 2013. 84" x 104".
! +* Figure 13 AIDS Memorial Quilt Installation view.
! +" Figure 13. a AIDS Memorial Quilt (detail) Figure 13.a AIDS Memorial Quilt ( detail)
! +( Figure 14. a Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Photos courtesy of Anna Rodriguez.
! ++ Figure 14. b. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Photos courtesy of Helena Benedict and Anna Rodriguez.
! +# Figure 14. c Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Photos courtesy of Nicole Cardenas and Kaylie Stokes
! +$ Figure 14. d Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Photo s courtesy of Nicole Cardenas and Anna Rodriguez
! +% Figure 14. e Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Photo s courtesy of Helena Benedict and Anna Rodriguez
! +& Figure 14. f Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Photos courtesy of Helena Benedict.
! +' Figure 14. g. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Photos from Menstrual Nation 2013. Photos courtesy of Anna Rodriguez and Kelsey Smith.
! #) Figure 14 h. B erman Gestring, Kyra. Menstrual Nation ( details of blood themed menu ) 2013. Photos courtesy of Anna Rodriguez and Kaylie Stokes.
! #* Figure 15. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Poster for Menstrual Nation 2013. Silkscreen on Paper. 14" x 19". Figure 15. a. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Poster for Menstrual Nation (installation view) 2013. Silkscreen on Paper. 14" x 19".
! #" Figure 16. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Flyer for Menstrual Nation 2013.
! #( Figure 17. Berman Gestring, Kyra. Pads constructed at Menstrual Nation 2013.
! #+ Figure 18. a. Beuys, Joseph. 7000 Oaks, 1982 Installation view. Oak trees and Basalt columns. Figure 18 b. Beuys, Joseph. 7000 Oaks, 1982 Installation view. Oak trees and Basalt columns.
! ## Figure 19 B erman Gestring, Kyra. Menstrual Nation ( Installation View in Isserman Gallery) 2013.
! #$ Figure 2 0 B erman Gestring, Kyra. Stills from KCOMmercial 2013. Digital video.
! #% Figure 21 B erman Gestring, Kyra. Stills from DIY: Menstrual Pads 2013. Digital video.
! #& Figure 22 a Waltener, Shane. Sweet Nothings: An Intimate History of Cake Making 2005. Ceremony Project Space. Photo: Sandra Ross, Pump House Gallery Figure 22 b. Waltener, Shane. Sweet Nothings: An Intimate History of Cake Making 2005. Photo: Shane Waltener
! #' Figure 23 .a. van Heeswijk, Jeanne. Valley Vibes 1998. Vibe Detector Figure 23 .b. van Heeswijk, Jeanne. Valley Vibes 1998. Interior View of Vibe Detector
! $) Figure 2 3 c. van Heeswijk, Jeanne. Valley Vibes 1998. Community Map