Lady Caterpillar by Lorraine Cleary (2020)

Mixed Media Installation: Layers of hand stitched textile from used women’s clothes, salvaged chair, paint, salvaged tiles, moulded concrete block, pink shirt, mug, iron, salvaged ironing board, red mop handles, pink clothes line, empty mop bucket, kitchen tap, concrete house blocks

Under normal circumstances victims of abuse have difficulty in navigating the perils of the domestic space; where within its perimeter the protection offered is just an illusion and instead of a safe haven its inhabitants are filled with distress and torment and forced to participate as unwilling protagonists in everyday nightmares. These contemptuous surroundings smother the intellect and force the mind to question its own sanity. Under lockdown these difficulties have been heightened and exacerbated existing abuse within the home. The victim has no respite from the abuse if the abuser is at home because of restrictions. Lady Caterpillar is fashioned from suffocating layers of hand-stitched fabric constructed from up-cycled female clothes; these layers are suspended from two crisscrossed mops emulating a puppeteers control over its puppet. The puppet acts as a metaphor for the control the abuser has over their victim. Lady Caterpillar reflects on the strength and endurance of a woman as she overcomes oppression on a daily basis.

Cleary’s work embraces societal concerns and becomes a symbol of ‘the now’; it’s a visual response to the strength and determination of the female in her ongoing fight for emancipation within a patriarchal sphere. The concept behind the work derives from trauma and coercion associated with domestic abuse aiming to move exploitation out of its taboo area and open it up to an area of discourse. Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the rise of domestic violence cases reported; restrictions have exacerbated preexisting conditions of abuse.Her work attempts to create a thoughtful dialogue through careful re-fashioning of materials, a selective use of colour and a combination of light to draw the viewer into a disturbing domestic circumference. Recently she has introduced textiles into her working methodology, these textile pieces incorporate hand-sewn patches representative of a traditional craft typically associated with women. This method of stitching is an arduous process culminating in months of painstaking work and symbolizes the determination of the female as she tirelessly battles against continued patriarchal injustice.Cleary hopes to advance her practice by making textiles an integral part of the work combining it with reconstructed found objects and elements of light to communicate themes of oppression. Her most recent piece ‘Lady Caterpillar’ was constructed from suffocating layers of hand-stitched fabric suspended from two mop handles, emulating a puppeteer’s control. With each layer she gets stronger shedding her patriarchal constraints, the caterpillar symbolizes that journey to freedom, just as the caterpillar leaves its cocoon to become a butterfly so too does the female battling ongoing coercion and control to take ownership over her own life. This journey by her is not an easy one; ‘Lady Caterpillar’ celebrates the strength and endurance of women as they overcome misogyny and repression.

Posted in C19

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