HER HOME ON CHICKEN LEGS: an interweaving of feminism, folklore, and sorcery
My creative practice examines folklore and fairy tales via a contemporary, feminist lens. The working method that I employ involves researching fables to locate stories that may have a personal significance. Alternately, I go through a process of reflecting on memorable stories and experiences that arise from my childhood. Through memories, fairy tales, and folklore, I investigate and critique themes of ‘women’s work’, or tasks that have often been historically appointed to women, such as needlecraft.
‘Women’s work’ is a term used to describe stereotypical tasks that have been apportioned to lower-class women within patriarchal societies, which are typically not viewed with anywhere near as much prestige as what is associated with work ‘proper’.
Women’s work is aligned with domestic labour, consisting of usually unpaid tasks such as raising children, cooking, cleaning, and mending. While the term includes the word ‘woman’, this work can be undertaken by anyone of any gender identity, and some women may not fall into this term. Women’s work refers to a subservient role, in a domestic setting, and can be applicable to anyone. In relation to creative mediums such as needlework and quilting, craft activities undertaken by women have, up until the 1970s, rarely been considered as art. In researching Silvia Federici’s writings on Marxism, feminism, and women’s work, my creative work aims to discuss what occurs in the domestic environment, where invisible, undervalued, and unpaid labour of women often manifests. In response to their circumstances, women have claimed a sort of power, or magic, and therefore within the concepts of this project, I am valuing the domestic through stories that are coupled with familial and domestic folk tales about the external world.
Notions of threads as spellworking are common depictions of feminine magic, as can be seen in the Moirae (from Greek myth), the Aes Sedai (servants of all) from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, and Baba Yaga’s teaching Vasilisa the Brave, which contains the notion of spinning thread as a method of teaching her pagan form of magic.
Employing cyanotype processes on various materials, such as paper and broken eggshells, my practice investigates the effects that sunlight and other uncontrollable, elemental variables—such as wind, clouds, and rain—may have on organic and symbolic materials. The cyanotype prints depict a crocheted blanket heirloom and pressed flowers from my garden, which are objects from activities that circle back to link to the term ‘women’s work’. The eggs as material are suggestive as they are a common symbol of femininity, fertility, and life. However, in my practice they are broken and open, and the inside—the part that is impossible to see without causing irreparable damage–is where significances are located.