This mixed media embroidery is part of a series of works looking at women through the lens of their societal restraints. The unevenness of her face, the pursed lips literally sewn shut, the unstylish hair, and the soulful gaze were important to me. The randomized seed stich in many colors on her face indicates the tingle of nerve endings below the skin. Seed stitches run vertically up her chest and neck, and a subtle indication of the blood flowing to her head. The dress-dummy looms over her, an idealized woman’s shape, with no head at all.
The choice of fabric and threads instead of paint, and the inclusion of the sewer’s dress-dummy were all significant. They reference the long history of middle- and upper-class women silenced and relegated to “acceptable” occupations such as needlework. It also references generations of anonymous, poorly-paid workers laboring in the Garment District, where I once worked.
In her 1984 book, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine, Rozsika Parker wrote, “because of its history and associations embroidery evokes and inculcates femininity in the embroiderer. But it can also lead women to an awareness of the extraordinary constraints of femininity, providing at times a means of negotiating them, and at other times provoking the desire to escape.”
This work is an attempt to reclaim that craft.