May 1, 2015

April 30th - May 30th 2015:
Works by Saskia van Kampen
Reception Thursday April 30 7-9 pm
Graven Feather, 906 Queen Street W.

Since the Victorian Age, needlework has become highly gendered, constructed as women’s work, and is seen as a symbol of obedience. My work illuminates this notion by exposing society’s constructed ideals of female servitude by stitching together consumer product packaging (such as beauty products, feminine hygiene products and food products). The pieces of packaging are compiled in a similar way to how quilt tops are sewn. The end result is a series of posters—each containing a word that speaks to how the media depicts and defines both public and private roles of women. 

Furthering this concept is a series of embroidered pieces in which embroidery stitches are used to cover the commodified, naked bodies of Playboy models. This series, entitled Virgin/Whore is an attempt to shift the models from object to entity through a symbol of female oppression—needlework. The materials used are in opposition with each other: low quality magazine paper is not meant to be sewn. Paper retains the hole that the needle creates and, if pulled too hard, the thread will tear it. The constant handling of paper changes the character of the surface—it creases, buckles and the natural oil in fingertips softens its rigidity. The process of embroidery was deliberate, requiring hours of sitting and stitching to slowly conceal the naked bodies—a performance in it itself (see note at bottom)—which comments on the constructs of femininity. Art historian and author of The Subversive Stitch Rozsika Parker explains how embroidery “evokes the stereotype of the virgin in opposition to the whore.” As is seen in these pieces both stereotypes are represented in the artifact and in the act and both are battling with the roles society has allocated to them. 

Many craft theorists discuss the oppositional play involved in using handcraft techniques in contemporary contexts. Despite their bright colours and almost playful interaction, both the stitched posters and Playboy Models have a rather dark undertone of the issues still plaguing women, as well as handcraft. My work talks about the objectification of women and the perception of handcraft as a lower form of artistic production.

Pieces are still available for purchase: click here
Exhibit catalogue available for purchase through my website: click here Or through Blurb books: click here