Monthly Archives: January 2011

A Scarlet Letter: Textile as Protagonist

In tenth grade with Mrs. Obrien, we began to read A Scarlet Letter as part of our curriculum. Written by Nathanial Hawthorne, it has an American spin on the flowery writing of the mid-nineteenth century and there was revolt in the classroom. Due to utter lack of enthusiasm and a flat out refusal to read, we never finished the book. (We probably read The Pearl again, but I honestly don’t remember.)

It has taken 6 years for me to pick up what is advertised as a great work in American literature and I have to say, with that kind of lead up, it was a bit underwhelming. The storyline was a bit predictable, but generally it was a good, albeit tragic, tale of unrequited love (my favourite kind).

What did interest me, is that the main characters consisted of a woman, her former husband, her child, the child’s secret father and the scarlet letter. The description of this embroidery is carried throughout the novel and is a huge protagonist and carrier of the plot. The tactile and visual symbolism of the embroidered letter is a literary ploy to signal the emotions of Hester Prynne and her turmoil at the hands of her fellow villagers. The book hangs on this embroidered letter, a textile.

 

There were some obvious hiccups in the relaying of Hester Prynne- her dialogue taking on the awkwardness that only a man writing words for a woman who lived several hundred years previously could achieve and some fun self-indulgence in the language. However, I cannot think of (and implore you to inform me) of other novels that place textiles in such a prominent position.

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The Web Dress Project: Beginning

My friend Lenny, who you mind remember from the last post, and I have been collaborating on a web-y project. Born from a lot of gin and tonics in July, a large web, fashion-related installation. It’s evolved into the web dress (name still in progress). I have some sketches that I’ll post when I get braver/ get a scanner/ learn to take good macro photos.

 

 

This dress will be worn by me in photographs exhibiting the following qualities: ambiguity, trapped, grounded, questioning, escape, comfort…. It’s exploring the question of whether you’re trapped by things that hold you down or whether you’re grounded and made safe by it. To which I would suggest reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being for a further and more eloquent exploration of this theme.

So far I have worked on the basic bodice of the dress and some loosely crocheted ‘shawls’ to drape, among other things, onto the bodice.

These elements will intertwine and be interchangeable to change the feeling of the finished photographs. Stay tuned!

 

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