Monday, February 14, 2011

Needlework in Contemporary Art

This weekend I made a trip to NYC and went Gallery hopping in Chelsea. Among the many galleries I visited, I made a point of visiting Jenkins Johnson Gallery. There's a show up called Girls Girls Girls, and it centers around art on just that topic: girls! There were a few pieces in that show that involved needlework, and I thought I would share them with you.

One piece is called "Pink Cloud" and it is by the artist Maggy Rozycki Hiltner. It is 5 x 13 feet and is featured right at the entrance of the gallery. It uses embroidery and hand stitching on found textiles. The subject matter is mostly little girls with lots of pinks and reds. At first glance, it looks very sweet, especially when you note that the little girls are eating ice cream cones and desserts. However, upon a closer inspection, there was a more adult feeling. There were little girls who were biting the little boys, as if they were testing out things they had seen or heard about from adults. This brings to mind the typical way that children learn about sexuality and go from young adults to adults. The following statement from the artist's website sums it up quite well. "I grew up a tomboy. Upon adolescence, I approached my newfound femininity and sexuality with this sporty gusto. Relationships, hairdos, food, sex- everything was a game, a contest, something to push on.
This piece was created to evoke the overwhelmingly sweet smell of icing at a party or perhaps a flower shop on a hot day. Everything seems all right at first, upon closer inspection my girls act out the consequences of overindulgence."

Maggy also has another set of pieces in the show. They are done in latch hook. These are more blatantly humorous than the larger piece. The three rugs center around pixie-like little girls. Each one is in one color, with the girl drawn with white. The juxtaposition of the innocent girls
with the candy-like colors and the "titles" underneath each girl makes you reconsider the meaning behind the pieces. The colors themselves are too bright and harsh to view the girls as really pure, but with a title like "liar" or "princess", you're given a description of these girls' personalities and reconsider who they are.

Maggy's work seems to focus on social commentary and feminine issues. If you check out her website, you can see more of her work, which all incorporates stitching on a large scale. This piece, which is not shown at Jenkins Johnson, but I think is interesting is called "Strawberry Girls."

This exhibition was another example of how stitching and needlework is still very much alive and is being used in many ways, even in art that's shown in galleries in New York City!

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