My work explores memory and customs examining society, cultural inheritance, and the natural world. Looking back at women throughout history, I see how far we have come in some regards, yet how little has changed in others. My body of work, Public Debt to the Suffragette, reflects on the times of 1912-15 through the eyes of 2012-15. The very year that the US congress started to limit women’s rights over their bodies is exactly 100 years after Margaret Sanger initiated what would become Planned Parenthood. I was inspired to honor the female body and use it as a statement about seduction, power, and control; and to question social mores of gender.
For Margaret Sanger’s Faith c. Mary Coss
Materials bring with them inherent meaning. Bronze traditionally memorialized moments in time. Here I use it to create a frozen narrative. The long history of bronze casting includes the making of protective war implements, in particular body armor. Using bronze to present intimate imagery creates a different context for the material, the armour becomes reflective of its matters, and it matters how the details are treated. An emerging breast shows both its strength and its vulnerability, yet these forms seem to take on any brutality, including a needle and thread and still withstand.
Inertia c. Mary Coss
My use of corsets question historical reference and gender roles. It’s written that women donned the first corsets to take a stand, saying no to motherhood and yes to other possibilities. But, mostly we hear the stories of women pursuing the perfect shape, the stories of women who broke or removed ribs to create a body to fit the current ideal. History is storytelling and truth is illusive.
The Familiar Unfamiliar c. Mary Coss
Gilded cAGE (below) reflects on the Gilded Age. It was a time where society lay corrupt under a gilded surface layer. Just as Mark Twain coined this term for the late 19th century, current business and politics have revolved to a similar social condition with the gilding, as a cage for the populace.
I’m interested in working somewhere between the familiar and the uncomfortable. Intimate imagery seduces, but there is more to these stories. I invite you to spend a moment of time to consider the allusions. Just as layers of time encrust our planet, layers of meaning have a way of building up through years and creating something different than what originally existed. In society, these encrustations can propel us forward or move us back. I am betting on our moving forward and hope this work creates a ripple that rolls forward in concert with many others.
Gilded cAGE c. Mary Coss