THREADS, NEEDLES AND FABRICS IN THE WORK OF 4 WOMEN ARTISTS

It is not the first time that we talk about the use of alternative plastic techniques to let imagination and creativity run. This is the case with threads and embroidery, which transform on this occasion into a refined form of artistic production far from its immediate use in the world of sewing. All these pieces require infinite patience and give an example of tenacity, of love for things well done, of dedication, devotion and the search for new narrative discourses that deviate from expected in the field of visual arts.

Detail of the artwork by Cayne Zavaglia (image from www.caycezavaglia.com)

Undoubtedly, sewing is a task linked to women since time immemorial. A quick search in any compendium of art history throws many works in which women appear sewing, most of the time by hand, in customary scenes. These images compose an imaginary fueled by ideas such as care, attention, dedication, until they become concepts almost inseparable of femininity. Today, many women artists (because that is still the case, the female creators are the ones who opt for these techniques) use these resources with an intentional value, to allow re-readings on this type of work and give a second life to threads and needles beyond the servilism traditionally associated with these domestic tasks. At the same time, some people do an exercise of abstraction to build a more subtle message and contribute to the empowerment of women by showing the potential of these techniques in the field of artistic creation or by hiding a story that demands attention in the visitor, invaded by an infinity of visual proposals.

Louise Bourgeois, “Maman”, 1999 (image from www.guggenheim-bilbao.eus)

Louise Bourgeois started sculpting spiders as a tribute to her mother, to whom she was very close. She ran a workshop for sewing and repairing tapestries, a reconstruction work in which Bourgeois began when she was barely 12 years old. This figure represents the working and dedicated personality of her mother, because spiders can re-weave their own net, to build threads that reinforce it, to overcome adversity and continue their meticulous work with transparent silk.

Artwork by Cayne Zavaglia (image from www.caycezavaglia.com)

Although Louise Bourgeois opted for sculpture, numerous artists pick up the sewing materials to create their works. In an exercise of skill and artifice, Cayce Zavaglia (Indiana, 1971) is able to create these incredible portraits using canvas and coloured wool threads. The result is a work that simulates the small touches of a brush on a neutral fabric, to give all the depth, volume and texture of a real painting. With constant colour transitions and changes of direction in the stitches, her pieces are proof of the expressive capacity of these materials, with surprising versatility.

Ghada Amer, "Snowhite without the dwarves", 2008 (image from www.letraslibres.com)

In other cases, the use of the needle and thimble seeks to convey a message that transcends and breaks the moulds established on social roles and the tasks entrusted to each gender. The artist Ghada Amer (El Cairo, 1963) decided to close a personal wound caused by her experience when she was rejected in a painting course in which the teacher only selected men, with a work that ridicules the vision that the male gender has spread about women. She found her inspiration in the stereotyped female representation he found in erotic and fashion magazines and animated children's films. The result is a work embroidered with coloured threads in a reinterpretation of pop art transformed on canvas that excludes the man from the scene and shows women-shapes responsible for their own pleasure.

Raquel Rodrigo, “Arquicostura” (photo © Julián Jiménez, via www.harpersbazaar.com)

In another way, the work of Raquel Rodrigo (Valencia, 1985) is developed through her project "Arquicostura". Her purpose is to embroider the walls of stores with cross-stitch compositions and make everyday life more beautiful for everyone. She has interventions in Valencia, Fanzara (Castellón), Salamanca, Zaragoza, Buñol (Valencia), Madrid, Bristol, London, Milan and Qatar. It is also a way to rescue domestic art that all women used to decorate their homes. Taking it to the streets and offering the world this job means putting it into value and appreciating it for what it really is.

Kumi Yamashita, Left: “Constellation - Mana, nº2”, Right: “Constellation - Sachi”, 2013 (image from kumiyamashita.com)

Finally, we highlight the work of the Japanese artist Kumi Yamashita (Takasaki, 1968), who makes amazing portraits with a hybrid technique that intertwines a monochrome thread on a plot of nails to create the shapes, shadows and depth of the faces portraited. Although this is not the only discipline that she works at, the impact of these works has earned her broad recognition worldwide.

 

The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.