“What is the most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.” -Susan Sontag
In the Motherboard series nude female subjects are suspended mid plane while thin chords crisscross around their exposed nude bodies. Rendered in a series of cross, straight and jump stitches, the threads or life lines that bind the subjects are also the ones that keeps them in tact.
“Jump-stitches make the figures appear bound by the very medium that enables the figures’ visual existence.”
New York based Alicia Ross examines femininity, motherhood, fertility, and morality using embroidery and offers, “I do think that because of its historic connotation as woman’s work, embroidery and needlecraft still rings as a near-universal female gesture. I think the juxtaposition between needlework and the typically bound nude figure form communicates these tensions.” The tensions explored in the Motherboard series blur the distinction between images retrieved from pornographic websites, works of art and fashion editorials. The image is then removed from its original context and put through a series of digital alterations wherein the pixels are translated into stitches. Ross explains that the manipulation of “jump-stitches make the figures appear bound by the very medium that enables the figures’ visual existence.” The stitches seem delicate as though they may snap at any second, which speaks to the tensions women face when defining their identity as they assume feminine and masculine aspects of self. By appropriating images from digital sources and rendering them in a handmade, laborious patchwork Alicia Ross challenges the viewer to consider femininity in a digital landscape.
The Phrenology series is another instance of the juxtaposition between 19th Century ideology and pop-culture obsession. “Phrenology” refers to a two-dimensional map outlining of portions of the human head that were believed to determine personality, morality, and character. In appropriating images from online news sources of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton, and others Ross examines the images, which have been abstracted from digital photographs to embroidery to juxtapose traditional expectations, and modern day characteristics ascribed to motherhood, womanhood, and celebrity. Ross continues to say “the process of remediation and abstraction creates a cyborg-esque representation and comments on the public dissection of female roles by the media and society at large. The juxtaposition of such media-made celebrities blurs the distinction between praiseworthy figures and unworthy role models.” Framed in bubbled shaped glass frames, the Phrenology series not only riffs on antiquated belief systems about femininity, but reflects the viewer who stands before it and calls our character into question.
Featured Image: Alicia Ross, Hogtied, cross-stitch on polyester, 24” x 18”, 2010
All images © of the artist