from the Series: The Deceiver and The Deceived
All my artwork builds on a foundation of reusing materials from the waste stream of our society. The printed images from retail packaging reveal the values of our consumer society – such as the images of women that are used to sell every kind of product in the marketplace. Pure, delicious, refreshing – evocative words to describe both food and women.
Images of women on consumer packaging sell and reinforce a conventional stereotype that is hard to escape. Very often the ladies are serving food or making food, a “mistress of the home”* fulfilling her traditional domestic duties. This is a reality studded with thorns. The limitations of these roles can lead to disappointment, constraining the full potential of women’s intellectual or leadership opportunities.
At the same time, we have devalued the domestic role. Raising children in the home, cooking and cleaning have been the honored domestic duties of women for eons, but in our modern society, these roles are diminished and poorly paid. This parallels closely to the poor pay for teachers and other jobs engaged in early childhood care and development. The people responsible for educating and training our future generations should be held in high regard and well paid.
The construction of this artwork also represents a metaphor of the domestic arts. The center emerges from the 3-dimensional fan quilt pattern. The quilt patterns in the construction allude to sewing, a domestic art form and creative outlet for women in the home. Food preparation, interior design/decorating, fashion design, sewing, quilting, with their roots in the domestic arts have all been devalued.
The faceted fan (a symbol of femininity) projects outward from the red front door (as if escaping) but is immediately surrounded by a tour-de-force of metal constructs. The door is encircled by constructs of domestic architecture, including a rolled edge frame of red brick from vintage steel dollhouses, followed by four more frames of roses. I think that the roses are beautiful but in a socially accepted conventional way. Roses are presented as an idealized standard of beauty, but at the same time they have thorns, not unlike the idealized portrayal of woman.
The frames provide structured perspectives and serve as metaphor of the boundaries expected by society. What happens when we try break beyond the narrow limits and idealism of domestic bliss?
*Harriete means “mistress of the home.
Close-up view of the center below:
Frame wall piece constructed from pre-printed steel from recycled tin cans, vintage steel dollhouses, aluminum rivets.
18" height x 18" width x 4.5" depth
This wall frame is available for purchase or exhibition.
Retail price: $6,900
Shown in the exhibition DOMESTIC MATTERS: The Uncommon Apron at Peters Valley. August 31- November 2, 2019 Curated by Gail Brown. There were several articles during the exhibition that featured by work: I particularly appreciated the review “Aprons as Art: No Strings Attached” written by Amy Ferris and Maleyne Syracuse. Quote:
“In the late 1960’s and the 70’s something else began to stir: women burning their bras – marching for equality and raising their consciousness – no longer accepting the idea that a woman’s place was in the home; aprons were untied and tossed, banished to drawers and hooks where they would hang on the back of a door.
If you ask a fifty- or sixty-year-old woman today what memory she has and holds of her mother wearing an apron she will often answer: Suppression, unfulfilled dreams, longing, entrapment and emotional bondage.
But times have changed and women are no longer tethered to the kitchen and memories can be recycled into art.”
Comments about my work: Harriete Estel Berman’s Reality Studded with Thorns Hides the Door from the Street is constructed from recycled tin cans and vintage steel dollhouses. The bright red front door is framed with old fashioned roses, beautiful and dangerous, “Not,” the artist writes, “unlike the idealized portrayal of women” and their traditional roles.
Photo Credit : Philip Cohen
© Harriete Estel Berman, 1997-1998