This domestic iron is a sculpture that looks like a real domestic iron. It is a tour-de-force of silversmith construction as a commentary about the value placed on consumer goods, and diminished value of hand made. The foundation of all the appliances in "The Family of Appliances You Can Believe In" is a commentary about women's roles in society and the role of advertising in creating the myth of perfection in domestic roles.
The thorn in the handle refers to how women sacrifice so much of themselves in marriage fulfilling domestic roles and child rearing. It is a painful irony that the domestic role of raising children is so undervalued in our society. This parallels the poor pay for teachers and disciplines that involve child rearing.
The plastic handle was modified from a "Never Lift Iron" from the 1930's.
As you can see in the image above and below, the sterling silver doors with 14k gold details open to reveal the iconic image inside the iron.
Sterling silver trim and doors with 14k. yellow gold detail and clasp.
Inside the iron is a sterling silver chased-repousse' icon based on the style of Russian Orthodox religious icons. This aligns perfect with a decoupage magazine advertisement over wood (shown below.)
Idols of Generations, Illusions to Prophecy is a tour de force of chasing and repoussé in sterling silver.
It is a commentary on the disproportionate focus in metalsmithing on intrinsic value of materials, and technique.
The images in the icon were based on a 1960's ad for Ivory dishwashing detergent (left) from women's magazines of the 1960's.
The mother, daughter and grandmother place their "ageless" hands in front of the plates. The plates are like halos from Russian orthodox religious icons. This parallels the false promises from advertising.
This also refers to the fact that the fabrication of these beautiful appliances makes my hands look so ugly.
Idols of Generations, Illusions to Prophecy is part of a series of domestic appliances. As an artist, wife, and mother suffocating in “domestic bliss”, my work is embedded with the mundane of everyday life and the relentless messages of “satisfaction guaranteed.”
The second-class status of women who care for home and children bears a strong relationship to the second-class status of craft and handmade objects in the art world.
This dialog was first illustrated in "The Family of Appliances You Can Believe In", a group of fabricated, domestic appliances started in 1980. These appliances, as well as the work to come later, use humor and craftsmanship (along with autobiographical content) to comment on issues regarding the roles of women in our society, American consumerism and the Art world. The irony of handmade objects replicating the status symbols of manufactured domestic appliances is an important aspect of their cultural meaning.
Copper construction with painted or nickel-plated finish. Sterling silver trim and doors with 14k. yellow gold detail and clasp. Black plastic handle.
8" height x 6.5" width open x 4.5" depth closed
Available for purchase or exhibition.
Retail Price: $12,000
© Harriete Estel Berman, 1983