In 2007 the Hamilton Quilters’s Guild celebrated its 25th anniversary by challenging members to create a wallhanging celebrating twenty-five. This was my entry… 25 images in free motion embroidery in black on cream silk, the tiles then appliqued to black velvet. Each image records something I value, and I called the quilt Insights and Intuitions: Pictures of My Life.
Isn’t she lovely!
This clever drawing is both evocative and provocative and I like it very much. It references two very different sources, and this prompts a thoughtful analysis of what it means to be a woman.
The head and face and general shape of the body are
clearly reminiscent of Botticelli’s famous 1485 painting of the “Birth of Venus”. The hands and flowing hair of Botticelli’s famous Venus hide her bosom and genitalia and she balances sturdily with large feet on the edge of an elaborate shell. She looks down as though she is about to step forward, off the shell and into the landscape. Allegorical figures surround her, to the left blowing her ashore, to the right holding a graceful wrap in which to enfold her.
However the feet of this image disappear into tapered nothingness, with a large, pregnant abdomen and hands cupping the top of her ample breasts. In this she is just like the famous Woman of Willendorf, the tiny prehistoric statue that dates from 25,000 years ago. Statues so shaped fit beautifully into the palm of the hand, a talisman perhaps of fertility and female power, always evocative to the modern woman of the concept of the pagan goddess and matriarchal societies.
Here we have no anorexic fashion model, no toned and muscular androgynous athlete, no movie star, no Barbie doll. She looks like a real woman, pregnant, unashamed of her female body upon which she gazes. Nonetheless, she balances precariously, unable to move about freely, to “take a stand” or “land on her own two feet”.
For despite decades of feminist consciousness raising and political action, despite brilliant expressions in literature and art, despite public education campaigns and legislation to eliminate sexist bias in society and the workplace, despite all of the hours of earnest conversation and deep introspection, the role of women in the modern world is still difficult to define. And difficult to live.
The image captures some of that irony and ambiguity. I will think more about this in my own experience.