PortfolioExhibitions – MatriArt Selections

Furniture and Props Assemblage for MatriArt (2002)

Domestic props and stilllifes are rife with symbolism and messages about the women who live with them, tidy and maintain them.

  • Aging. Potpouri of dried petals on the seat of the peeling small kitchen chair, a disintegrating lace shawl with a prayer card stitched into it, a furnace vent inhales threads of white – all symbols of a life, waning. For the frail elderly woman, widowed, with little means of support and little social interaction, the fading away is one of prolonged solitude and resigned silence.

  • Detail of Aging

  • Unintentional Bride. The young woman who finds herself in a “family way” and marries, other plans foregone, must reconcile herself to settle down. Even a pretty chair, when one is forced to sit, is uncomfortable.

  • Corset Drawer. The day that a woman decides to no longer submit to torturous conventions for appearance, is a day of liberation.

  • Pie Faced First coined in 1912, “pie-faced” means to have a round, smooth blank face. Pity the housewife who is not permitted to develop as a complete person, trapped in the confines of domesticity. Subjugated by norms of earlier societies, edicts from husbands and fathers, hopefully she found some happiness in homemaking, into which she made herself entirely.

  • For Women, the Progress was Undeniable Struck by the non-evolution of an essential kitchen tool, Jan poses the question to the viewer, “Just what has changed for women making homes?”

  • The Door is Open The parakeet in its charming little cage is an apt symbol for the housewife contained by her house, and her role. You can teach the bird to repeat that they are free to go (the border of the egg tempera painting repeats the words “The Door is Open” but there is a disconnect that does not allow escape. Whether for fear or comfort, caged is caged.

  • Grisgris The soul of family life can be divined from what remains. Jan had just closed and cleaned the homes of her deceased father and grandmother prior to the opening of her thesis show. The dustpan and its contents are symbolic of the discoveries she made while handling the personal belongings of her elders. “Grisgris” is a talisman or occult amulet that can be devised to protect, or to harm the person that holds the grisgris. After a death in the family, survivors are seeking comfort, connection, understanding of the person who has departed. These personal remnants that are gathered up as keepsakes, of signs of prior life, seem to carry powerful magic.

  • Think Feel Jan’s grandmothers always dressed with the necessary style for church-going and holidays. Otherwise, they were sensible, practical in their lifestyles. The lovely handbag and matching gloves and the ubiquitous embroidered linen hankies were assembled, and Jan embroidered “feel” on the most practical one, “THINK” on the most decorative, suggesting the need for the woman to always know the proper balance for her emotions and actions.

  • DogMa Feeds No One This cast concrete lawn ornament guarded the door of the gallery. Jan painted the tongue silver, added a brasiere of pointed copper, and gilded the pedestal. Around the neck of the DogMa is a collar with the inscription “Dog Ma Feeds No One.” After her graduation, Jan left the sculpture in the Master’s students studios, a gift of support to future students who might feel oppressed by a few notoriously implacable professors.

  • “Madonna and Chimp” and “The Parents Play/Ply/Pry/Pray Station”. A chapel setting with two assemblage pieces

    Foreground: “The Parents Play/Ply/Pry/Pray Station” A household WorkMate has been modified for the parenting task at hand. Jan wrote, “We’ll try anything to be in harmony with our children. At firest it is enough to give physical care, and to Play. When the child discovers that manipulation of parents is possible, we Ply our kids with treats in exchange for cooperation. When teenagers provoke our fear while learning to self-manage, we learn to Pry. Finally when trust breaks down and there is nothing left but faith we Pray that, even if all will not be well, we will all survive.

    Background “Madonna and Chimp” This painting on a mirror is a trinity of sorts. The madonna stands in for all mothers, the chimp for all kids, and the small circular mirror, for the viewer who is included in the trio, entreated to remember their own path of evolution to maturity. Around the furcovered mirror frame are interlacing monkey tails (chimps already have lost their tails, so there is hope for continuing change towards civilized behavior!) On the banderole behind the peeled banana votives is embroidered, “Bless Our Children – May They Evolve.”

    See the second setting for “Madonna and Chimp” at the Carnegie Arts Center in 2003

  • “The Parents Play/Ply/Pry/Pray Station” An invitation to the gallery visitor to kneel and interact with the props on the workmate including a sleep mask with “I’ve Seen Enough”, a rabbits foot, prayer beads, magnifying glass, lock, bonbons, medals, chachkas, and toys.

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