Stitched Iliad

Stitched Iliad is an ongoing project developed from grappling with issues of translation and metaphor. My thinking began to focus on the abundance of fibre and textile metaphors describing story-telling, and also on cross-medium translations – of oral and gestural communication to written forms, and vice versa. This led me to consider the Iliad, a text which began as part of an oral tradition and was only later written down – as an ideal source material on which to base an emerging art piece. Thus, I began to 'translate' all 24 chapters of the Iliad, one at a time, into colour and embroidery. Each character of the text is represented by an individual stitch, in a designated colour. In book I each of those colours is a different shade of red, but in each new chapter, one letter, one shade of red, is replaced and re-represented by a shade of blue. Hopefully when it is finally complete, it will be a work of spectacle, aesthetic beauty and complexity worthy of the title of epic.

But this piece is as much about the process – sewing as storytelling – as the finished result. A performative aspect emerged both as I documented on a blog the daily progress on the project, and began to work on the piece in public places, prompting conversations and interactions with an audience receptive to both the story of the Iliad and the story of the stitched Iliad. For more about this piece, see the Stitched Iliad blog.

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The Text Gazes Back

The Text Gazes Back is an arrangement of portraits of a group of internet users which depicts not the users’ physical appearance, but their emotional reaction throughout a series of conversations. The portraits, organised in a grid, are a series of ceramic masks in which faces are represented by emoticons. The work celebrates the new uses of punctuation in indicating how a communication is to be read in terms of clarifying the emotional content of a message, and shows how internet users, despite the mask of anonymity granted them online, are not only forced to reveal their facial expressions in order to communicate clearly and avoid misunderstanding, but do so in ways unique to each user, despite the limited common stock of characters used by all. The portraits are arranged in a grid which allows the viewer to ‘read’ a conversation across a row of the grid, or to examine the cumulative emotional portrait of a specific user by examining the column representing that individual.

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This piece was inspired by Penny Murray's article 'Reclaiming the Muse' in Zajko & Leonard's Laughing with Medusa (2006:327-54) and May Sarton's poem, 'The Muse as Medusa'; it consists of nine plain, white ceramic masks with vivid red lips, surrounded by a tangle of writhing black ceramic hair designed to be evocative of snakes and, therefore, of the aegis – the shield which bore the decapitated head of the gorgon Medusa. The piece draws on Freudian notions of sexual fear – in particular, male fears of castration and of the 'unknown' and 'threatening' sexuality of the female – and combines these with the concept of the muse, icons of female creativity which have themselves been 'castrated' by the male artist, and reduced to objects of the male gaze. Such representations of women can only ever be concealing masks.

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This Curated Life

This Curated Life is a growing series of sewn messages framed in embroidery hoops designed to be placed not within a specific site, but within a variety of non-specific sites. Each placement of the hoop creates a context for the message it shows creating an overall tapestry of meanings as the hoops are placed again and again. They are endless Wittgensteinian language games where each new placement of a hoop adds to our understanding of the meaning of that hoop, and indicates how to use it – by which I mean, suggests another, new context in which the hoop could be placed, further expanding its meaning. It also creates an intertextual connection between the sites and objects the hoop interacts with, creating a visual/textual legacy as old placements suggest new placements, and new placements re-inform older placements. Within (and without) a gallery the hoops become curatorial tools, interventions which interact with, and alter, our understanding and reception of other pieces within the gallery.

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