Site specific installation at 33 Officinia Creativa, in a converted 13th Century Benedictine church
June 2018, Toffia, Italy
Silk cyanotype prints, string, clothespins, dried flowers
Portrait of L, detail
Preserved mural from when the space was a Benedictine church, 13th century
Portrait of K
Portrait of A
This work came out of a desire to know the women who came before me better: my grandmothers and great grandmothers. I remember them vividly, but I want to know them not as doting grandparents, but as young women. Who were they beyond motherhood? I cannot ask them, and so I ask my mother, my grandfather, I learn through their memories, through old photographs, and through my imaginings. I’m connected to these women in my body, and so I set about to access this.
The women in my family do laundry. My mother does laundry nearly every day. While she and my father split the household duties evenly, the laundry is her domain, as it was her mothers. Throughout history laundry has always been a predominantly feminine task. And up until quite recently to clean clothing was a physically taxing endeavor.
These works are created using the cyanotype process, which involves exposing pretreated material to direct sunlight. What is blocked from the light remains white and what is exposed to sunlight is turned blue. In order to reveal the image, the fabric or paper must be rinsed thoroughly with water. One must knead the fabric in cold water until the water runs clear.
This aspect of the work was a humbling task, reinforcing for me the strength and power behind the hands of women, and the dignity behind activities that are deemed “women’s work”. The daily washings became my own meditative gesture, a period of time each day where I was connected to the physicality of my body, and the bodies of the women in my family before me, who have done the same activity over and over again. This action was a space to think, to contemplate, to connect, and try to feel in myself something of what they must have felt.