Spring Senior Show: “Flourish,” Joanne Spotswood

The Fine Arts Department is pleased to present “Flourish,” a thesis exhibition by graduating painting major Joanne Spotswood. “Flourish” is on view from April 28 through May 4, 2018 in Goodwyn Gallery. The artist will be available in the space to discuss her art with visitors on May 2nd, 2:00-4:00 pm, and May 4th, from 4:00-5:00 pm.

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Joanne’s elaborate embroidery works, which take the form of liturgical vestments and veils, are complex and meticulously crafted. They critique traditional gender roles, while also operating as religious and biographical indices. As she explains, the “five liturgical vestments – garments worn by a priest during religious rituals such as the Mass – and three veils [that] could be worn by women during sacramental celebrations. Although these are traditional religious garments, they are not intended to be used or experienced solely in the traditional sense.” These ghostly, bodiless costumes hang from the gallery ceiling and are both haunting and inviting.

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In her artist statement, Spotswood elaborates on the relationship between devotion, gender, and the floral imagery of her embroidery. She writes, “Historically, the decoration on such liturgical clothing was made with hand-embroidery, a medium with strong female associations. The detailed representations of soft, floral imagery in this collection are intended to emphasize the feminine character and nature of traditional embroidery and juxtapose the traditionally masculine nature of the liturgical garments.”

Joanne continues, “I chose to use embroidery to decorate these garments because of the medium’s historical association with women’s work. Embroidery can also be understood as a devotional practice because it is a time intensive process and its repetitive motions help create a meditative state for the embroiderer. In the case of this collection, the act of devotion is a self-reflexive one. The medium, the process of creation, and the floral imagery all express powerful feminine associations, instilling the works with my personal femininity. Furthermore, the specific plants that I have chosen to depict are ones that I associate with my life in gardens of the Southeastern United States. These gardens were those of my mother and grandmothers, all extremely devout women. In these gardens I was surrounded simultaneously by flowers, which I was not allowed to pick, and religious statues and iconography. Every embroidered plant flourishes at the peak of its own season, calling back to a lifetime of memories rather than a specific one. In this way, this collection is a garden for and of myself, depicted on veils I am prescribed to wear, and priestly clothes that I am not allowed to wear.”

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