The conflicts and intersections of craft and art are marked in large part by gender and cultural stereotypes. For a long time, craft was associated with the female, working within the home: a suit patch, a blanket. Craft was practical, but fine art was the stuff of the male-dominated realms; images produced were for public consumption, philosophical discourse, and political inquiry. It wasn’t until Judy Chicago’s patchwork fabric and ceramic plates changed the way women’s art was perceived forever. Today, craft is celebrated as a time-honored cultural artistic tradition. It can be both practical and aesthetically intriguing; the line between craft and art is blurred.
The humorous work of artist Adrienne Doig is a beautiful example of this intersection. Using crafting material like fabric and embroidery and patchwork techniques, Doig constructed a series of provocative self-portraits recently on exhibition in Australia’s Martin Brown Contemporary entitled “Splendid.” In one portrait, she holds a sign that reads, “FEMINIST CLICHE.” The Guardian explains that the piece “is presumably Doig’s acknowledgement that a focus on handicrafts and other ‘women’s work’ folk arts has long been a way for female artists to make a statement about the cultural prejudices held against ‘arts and crafts.’”
We should not, as The Guardian presumes we might, view the work as “not serious” simply because it is “decorative.” Space is compressed in the eye-catching collages; Doig's own face disruptively breaks from the patterned appliques that surround it. In fact, she is so recognizable and distinct from the patterns behind her that it’s easy to forget that her body itself, her self-portrait, is itself constructed of fabric torn from clothes sold on Ebay. So take a look at Doing’s recent self-portraits. I think you will find them subversive, challenging, and decorative in the fact that they are aesthetically engaging.
Thanks to The Guardian
Images via Martin Browne Contemporary