Sunday, 7 November 2010

Alicia Ross - Hot Mess

Phrenology Study of Miley Cyrus

I haven't been very far out of Manhattan - I've gone as far as Union Square and the Guggenheim! - but when I saw the post on Mr X Stitch for an embroidery exhibition in Brooklyn, I figured I had to go.

exhibition 1_1
Black & White Gallery

It was well worth it! The work of Alicia Ross is phenomenal. I was the only one in the Black & White Gallery this Sunday morning, which gave me the opportunity to really look at and scrutinise the pieces.

Phrenology Study of Lindsey Lohan

First displayed are Ross's portraits. They range from densely cross-stitched pieces that look like photos, to more simple offerings they use colour to express their form. I was taken by the use of stitches and thread that Ross exhibits. Most of the piece is executed in regular cross stitch but texture is added with areas of single line stitches, sometimes even long strands of thread stitched from one area of the composition to another. Her portrait pieces, displayed in oval frames reminiscent of mirrors, made me look at femininity and it's link to needlework. All the portraits were of women, as if the medium were depicting that which it represents. However, each woman was different, showing the real diversity of our sex.

Ross's portraits are really, for me, only the tip of her work. Further back in the space you find her bondage pieces. There were two very distinct types of these. Two pieces were stitched on black cotton and quite formally showed women's faceless bodies bound in painful looking positions. The bodies were densely cross stitched, while an un-parted strand of red thread was used to show their bondage. I particularly liked how the thread disappeared off the edge of the canvas so you could not see the captor.

The second set of bondage pieces were more subtle in their depiction, but some of my favourite pieces. A woman's head and torso, her arms raised in anguish, are shown in vivid tones, actual pins crossed through her wrists. Whole, red thread circles her womb and shoots off from it suggesting the pain only women can feel. In a second piece the woman is bound and apparently suspended in the air. However, she is only bound by a single six-strand embroidery thread. The emotions infused in the piece make this thread seem like leather bonds holding her in place. These pieces being to mind the constraints put on women by the 'feminine ideal'. Their depiction in embroidery shows how this medium is considered part of the constraints.

Section of Thank God for Science (Octomom Phrenology Study)

I found one piece intriguing. The meaning I found behind it is possibly not what the artist was trying to say, but interesting non the less. A woman's profile, her lips pursed, is surrounded by the portraits of young babies, each in different colours. This, to me, felt like another constraint. Women are expected to have children and become mothers. This woman is surrounded by babies - are they what she wishes for, or something that scares her?

Philosophy Devouring Uranus

Finally, my to favourite pieces in the exhibition were displayed side by side. A bird of pray stands over the naked body of a woman. The top half of the body is missing, a bloody ruin depicted by strands of red thread attached to the bird. In the second piece, the woman's body is again on the ground, the top half bloody and being devoured by a wolf. Such levels of violence shouldn't be seen in cross stitch. We should be stitching kittens and flowers.... but that's the art of it!

Motherboard_11 (Down Boy)

Ross's pieces were breathtaking, I spent quite some time looking at which stitches she used, how she divided her thread to make textures and statements alike. I am inspired to be a better stitcher and a better artist after seeing this exhibition and will be keeping an eye out for more of her work!

Check out more of Alicia's work at
her website here

If you are in the area, I suggest you go check out this exhibition before it ends on 21st November:
Black & White Gallery, Brooklyn

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