Mar 31, 2010

Their Daily Bread

It was probably more than 2 years ago when Margie, Mandy and I had this idea of using a house for a site specific art installation regarding women and home. We couldn't do it last year, but we did it this year at last.

I was frustrated to know that the chosen house was "historical" meaning we could basically do nothing on the walls, no sticking, nailing, hanging, painting, etc. So, what was I supposed to do, lay things on the furniture, or on the floor? Well, that's exactly what I ended up doing after weeks of not knowing if I was able to figure something out.

I decided to talk about something that concerned women in Grand Rapids around the time when the house was built. What a nice surprise to find out around that that the women suffrage movement was about to be successful.

I had to find some bed sheet donations, which was not a problem compared to what followed next.

I decided to do reproductions of articles from the local newspapers from 1911 to 1920; I obviously had no idea what I was getting myself into. Most articles regarding suffrage, women, important women, etc. were very small and hard to find in the newspaper microfilms, but not surprising there were lots of sexist ads aimed at women, I guess that was very common. So I spent long long days at the local history department looking for those hidden articles. And, although they were small, and not very frequent, I gathered a big pile of them!

I printed all of those articles on the bedsheets and covered the furniture with them.

Here is my artist statement:

For the exhibit, we are using this historic home to focus on facets of history that took place when it was young, specifically from 1912 through 1920, the years during which the women’s suffrage movement succeeded in granting women the right to vote. The house belonged to the grandfather of Dorothy Leonard. Leonard was active in the fight for women’s suffrage; she joined the League of Women Voters in 1920.

My installation represents this history through the medium of dust, dust as a remainder and reminder of things past. The dust used is a combination of flour, as a tribute to the women servants who spent their hours hard at work in this home’s kitchen baking bread, and ashes, as a reminder of those in the movement now dead.

For the first part of my installation, I researched newspapers of the era and printed reproductions of relevant stories on bed-sheets. The sheets cover various pieces of furniture in the home as a way of drawing attention to the accumulation of history throughout the years. The history that settled around these pieces of furniture is the unseen history that settles like dust around us today.

The other part of my installation uses stencils of news stories that made big news around the dates that were relevant for women’s suffrage. Instead of paint, I used flour, again to represent the dust that history leaves behind, the dust of movements that never settles, but waits to be stirred up again by women seeking justice.

The exhibit took place at the Leonard at Logan B&B in Grand Rapids Michigan from March 26-28. The artists involved were Mandy Burrow, Margie Erlandson, Anna Campbell, and myself.
There are more pictures and information on my website.