Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Artist Statement and Curriculum Vitae

Image: Gender Reveal Cake, 2011, mixed media (child's tutu, lingerie, polyester fibrefill, cardboard, thread) on glass stand. cake: 11.75" diameter, 6.5" high. Click to enlarge.

ARTIST STATEMENT

My work positions gender as a social construct, with an emphasis on fashion as a form of Othering. Using media images and girls’ store bought clothing as inspiration, I explore Simone de Beauvoir’s perspective that “…everything that accentuates difference in the Other makes her more desirable” (The Second Sex, trans., Paris: Gallimard, 1972, p. 192). By highlighting the early age at which girls are exposed to this tendency, I support gender independence.

I see my work as referencing the crossroads of modernism and postmodernism: in making soft sculpture with garments and fabric as the starting point, and in creating embroideries with hints of three-dimensionality, I revisit the modern fixation on flatness in art. And, in making wearable art, I continue the tradition of Second Wave feminists incorporating their own bodies into their work as a postmodern form of protest.

To view a slideshow of images, please see Art Slant.

CURRICULUM VITAE

EDUCATION

Degrees conferred:
2008
History of Art Masters, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
2007
Library and Information Studies Masters, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
1999
Art and Art History Bachelor of Arts (Honours with High Distinction), University of Toronto and Sheridan College, Mississauga and Oakville, ON

RECENT EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

Professional appointments:
2017-present
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, Director of Ingalls Library
2012-2017
Nipissing University, North Bay, ON, Manager, Digital Resources and Information Services (Aug. 2016 onwards), Manager, Reference and Information Services (to Aug. 2016), Harris Learning Library
2008-10
Purchase College, State University of New York, Purchase, NY, Art Librarian (Faculty, Tenure Track)

Other:
2014-2016
Nipissing University, North Bay, ON, Part-time instructor, Dept. of Fine and Performing Arts
2012 (4 mts.)
Queen’s University, Interim Administrative Coordinator, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, ON
2007-08
University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Image Researcher and Cataloguer, Fine Art Dept.

GRANTS, HONOURS, AND AWARDS
2010
Purchase College, State University of New York, Faculty Support Award (exhibition assistance)
2009, 2010
New York State/ United University Professions, Professional Development Award (travel/ conference presentations)
2008
National Gallery of Canada Library & Archives, Ottawa, ON, TD Bank Financial Group Internship
2007
Visual Resources Association, Davis Art Images International Travel Award (conference attendance)
2006
Art Libraries Society of North America Ontario Chapter Travel Grant (travel/ conference presentation)
1997
Sheridan College, Art and Art History program, Clear Thinking Studio Award

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS - EXHIBITOR

Juried and/or academic presentations of work:
2017
White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON, Together (forthcoming)
2016
White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON, The Future of Human(ity) (with Alex Landon Richardson), organized by Nipissing University
2015
Whitdel Arts, Detroit, MI, CROTCH: Contested Territory
Trestle Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Small Works
A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (with Erin Finley), Who’s Afraid of Feminism? (online exhibition and catalogue), curated by Catherine Morris
WKP Kennedy Gallery, North Bay, ON, 40 Below, juried by Tanya Lukin-Linklater
2014
Koehnline Museum of Art, Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, IL, Gendering Desire: Liberation, Power, and Pleasure
Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto, ON (with Erin Finley), The Sex Offensive: Emancipating Gender
Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay, ON, The North Now, juried by David Garneau, Carol Podedworny, and Andrea Terry
2013
33 Contemporary Gallery, Chicago, IL, Copy.right? The Art of Appropriation, curated by Sergio Gomez and Jennifer Moore
Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto, ON, 13, curated by Robin Hesse and Katie Micak
2012
Annual Women’s History Conference (Women, the Arts and Activism), Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, Opera Yoko, live drawing collaboration with Erin Finley, 2-3 Mar.
Grunwald Gallery of Art, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show, juried by Louise Lippincott, Betsy Stirratt, and Catherine Johnson-Roehr
Eyelevel Gallery, Halifax, NS, Reshelving Initiative
2011
Brooklyn Artists Gym, Brooklyn, NY, Voyeur: See and Be Seen
2010
Diane Farris Gallery, Vancouver, BC, Twitter/Art + Social Media, juried by Lili Vierira de Carvalho, Kris Krug, Maria Lantin, and Hank Bull, curated by Lili Vierira de Carvalho
Red Head Gallery, Toronto, ON, Insomnia
2009
A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Furthermore: 8th Biennial of Women Artists, juried by Lilly Wei
Grosvenor Gallery, State University of New York, Cobleskill, NY, National Small Works Exhibition, juried by Gary Bower
2008
Future Tenant Gallery (affiliated with Carnegie Mellon University), Pittsburgh, PA, I-am-a-Heather, curated by Heather Mallak
First Canadian Place Gallery, Toronto, ON, Best of 2007 (Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition award recipients)
2007
Art Gallery of Mississauga, Mississauga, ON, AAHLUMINEX (selected Art and Art History alumni), juried by Robert Freeman
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON - Honourable Mention, Sculpture, award juried by Tom Dean
2006
Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant, Brantford, ON, Juried Art Exhibition, juried by Catherine Elliot-Shaw and Martin Pearce; curated by Kathryn Hogg - Honourable Mention
2005
Timmins Museum and National Exhibition Centre, Timmins, ON, Inaugural Boreal North Sculpture Association Exhibition, juried by Peter Sloan and Amy Switzer - Award of Merit
2000
Cambridge Galleries, Cambridge, ON, Fibreworks, juried by Jennifer Angus, Ingrid Bachman, and Betty Ann Jordan
1999
Art Gallery of Peel, Brampton, ON, 26th Annual Juried Exhibition, juried by John Armstrong and Brian Meehan - Jurors’ Award

Solo:
2010
Gallery 1313, Toronto, ON, Titillate
2008
Gallery 1313, Toronto, ON, When I Was Just a Little Girl: Que Sera, Sera?
2006
WKP Kennedy Gallery, North Bay, ON, Please Touch

EXHIBITIONS – ASSISTANCE PROVIDED
2010
Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto, ON installation assistant for A Spider’s Logic by Kai Chan
2006
White Water Gallery and WKP Kennedy Gallery, North Bay, ON, project manager for A Retrospective of Artists in North Bay and Surrounding Areas, an online exhibition hosted by Virtual Museum of Canada/ Canadian Heritage Information Network
2005
Camera Frontera (multi-venue photography festival), North Bay, ON, juror and member of steering committee
2004-05
White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON, coordinator for 20 exhibitions in one year as Director

PUBLICATIONS

Peer-reviewed articles:
2014
Saunders, Heather and Ryan W. Taylor. “The Art and Environment of Embedded Librarianship,” College & Undergraduate Libraries, 2014 21.2: 145-154.
2012
Book review: Whatever is Contained Must be Released: My Jewish Orthodox Girlhood, my Life as a Feminist Artist by Helène Aylon. MP: An Online Feminist Journal 3.6.

Conference proceedings:
2013
Chatalbash, Rachel, Celia Hartmann, Denis Lessard, and Mario Raminez, eds. Artists’ Records in the Archives: 11-12 Oct., 2011, New York Public Library and the Fashion Institute of Technology: 80-82. New York: Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc.

Catalogues edited:
2013
Saunders, H., ed. A Vital Force: The Canadian Group of Painters. Kingston and Oshawa: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

Other publications:
2017
Essay: “The Ecstasy (and Agony) of Painting in a Male-Dominated Art World: Eleanor Mackey,” Edges of Abstraction, North Bay Regional Curatorial Collective (forthcoming).
Catalogue essay: “Fight or Flight: The Return of the Sublime in the Drawings of Amanda Burk,” Thunder Bay Art Gallery (forthcoming).
Interview with Amanda Burk, Line Gallery, Magenta Magazine (forthcoming).
Book review: Feminist Avant-Garde: Art from the 1970s/ The SAMMLUNG VERBUND Collection by Gabriele Schor, ARLIS NA Reviews.
Book review: The Rise and Fall of the Fine Art Print in Eighteenth-Century France by W. McAllister Johnson, ARLIS NA Reviews, January.
2016
Book series review: Art Canada Institute Online Art Books, ARLIS NA Multimedia & Technology Reviews, August.
Book review: Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann, Magenta Magazine Spring, 7.1.
2015
Exhibition review: The Summit Meetings by Raphaëlle de Groot, Art Gallery of Windsor, Magenta Magazine Winter, 6.3.
Exhibition review: Behind Closed Doors: Body of Evidence by Natascha Niederstrass, Gallery 101, Ottawa, ON, Magenta Magazine Summer/Fall, 6.2.
2014
Exhibition text: “Harvesting Environmental Justice: Environmental Bookworks by Lise Melhorn-Boe” for It’s Fine, It’s Fine, Everything’s Fine, Kingston School of Art, Kingston, ON.
Book review: International Contemporary Art, Show Time: The 50 Most Influential Exhibitions of Contemporary Art by Jens Hoffman, C Magazine 123: 67-68.
2013
Book review: Provenance: An Alternate History of Art edited by Gail Feigenbaum and Inge Reist, Art Libraries Society of North America Reviews. May/ June.
2011
Book review: Push Comes to Shove: New Images of Aggressive Women by Maud Lavin, Art Libraries Society of North America Reviews May/ June.
2010
Book review: Rethinking the Contemporary Art School: The Artist, the PhD, and the Academy by Brad Buckley and John Conomos, Art Libraries Society of North America Reviews June/ July.
2006
“Coping With and Preventing Environmental Loss through Art: A Tale of Two Cities,” Women & Environments International, University of Toronto 72/73: 40-41.

Social media:
2013-15
Guest blog posts for Paradigm Shift (paradigmshiftnyc.com):
*“Getting out of the Groove: The Feminist Art Project at the Museum of Arts and Design, NY,” 28 Feb. 2015.
*Exhibition review: Feed by Martynka Wawrzyniak, Envoy Enterprises, New York, NY, “The Consumptive Gaze,” 31 Oct. 2014.
*Book review: Box Girl by Lillibet Snellings, 15 Sept. 2014.
*Exhibition review: Chicago in L.A.: Judy Chicago’s Early Work, 1963-74, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, “Judy Chicago at the Brooklyn Museum and Environs,” 23 Apr. 2014.
*Performance review: Between the Door and the Street by Suzanne Lacy et al., Brooklyn, NY), “Feminists en masse in Prospect Heights,” 21 Nov. 2013.
*Book review: Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom published by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 13 Oct. 2013.
*Book review: Gendered: Art and Feminist Theory by Tal Dekel, 15 July 2013.
*Exhibition review: Ana Mendieta - Late Works 1981-85, Galerie Lelong, New York, NY, 23 May 2013.
2009-present
Artist in Transit

PRESENTATIONS/ PANELS AT ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS
2013
OCAD University, Social Media and Creative Research: A Panel (by invitation from organizer, Art Libraries Society of North America Ontario chapter), 17 Oct.
2011
University of Toronto at Mississauga, Out of Joint: Voices on Mentoring, in conjunction with Viva Voce exhibition at Blackwood Gallery (by invitation from Jill Caskey), 21 Oct.
2010
Sheridan College, Oakville, ON Art and Art History Guest Artist Series (by invitation from Erin Finley) 23 Feb.

CONFERENCES, SYMPOSIA AND WEBINARS

2016
ARLIS/NA New England Chapter, “Scholarly Communication in Arts Librarianship” (webinar presenter), 14 Nov.
Annual Northeast Modern Language Association Convention, Hartford, CT, “Regressive Conservative: Margaret Sutherland’s Nude Portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper” (panelist and chair), 17-20 Mar.
Ontario Library Association (OLA) Super Conference (Library Lab: The Idea Incubator), Toronto, ON, “Rainbow Bridges: Ryerson’s Community Building with the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives,” (convenor, by invitation from Paula Cardozo, University of Lethbridge), 27-30 Jan.
2013
South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference (Cultures, Contexts, Images, Texts: Making Meaning in Print, Digital, and Networked Worlds), Atlanta, GA, “The Blog as an Extended Artist Statement,” 8-10 Nov.
2012
Columbia University Libraries Symposium (New Models of Academic Collaboration), New York, NY, “The Art and Environment of Embedded Librarianship” with Ryan W. Taylor, SUNY Purchase, 16 Mar.
2011
Biennial Conference on Image and Imagery (Silence and the Silenced) Brock University, St. Catharines, ON “Hush Baby Girl: The Silencing of Females in Visual and Popular Culture Manifested in Art,” 28-29 Oct.
The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York Symposium (Artists’ Records in the Archives) New York Public Library and the Fashion Institute of Technology, “Archiving Social Media Content by Artists,” 11-12 Oct.
2010
Mid-Atlantic Women’s Studies Association Conference, Montgomery College, Takoma Park, MD, “Feminist Self-Publishing from an Artist’s Perspective,” 11 June.
Arts for Social and Environmental Justice Symposium, Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, ON, “Art and the Environment @ Purchase: Lessons Learned from Interdisciplinary Collaboration,” with Ryan W. Taylor, SUNY Purchase, 13-15 May.
Art Libraries Society of North America Conference, Boston, MA, “Blogging as an Artist/Librarian Hybrid,” 23-26 Apr.
2009
International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI. “Redefining Medieval Patronage: Female Circulation of Books of Hours,” 7-10 May.
2006
Art Libraries Society of North America Conference (Transcontinental Perspectives), Banff, AB, “Internet Art: In Search of a Best Practice that Balances Archivists’ Conflicting Responsibilities,” 5-9 May.

CAMPUS TALKS
2015
Nipissing University, Directed Studio Research and Professional Practice class (instructor Alex Landon Richardson), North Bay, ON, “DIY Archiving,” 18 Dec.
2014
Nipissing University, Directed Studio Research and Professional Practice class (instructor Amanda Burk), North Bay, ON, “Anticipating the Archive: Preparing your Personal Papers as an Artist,” 7 Feb.
2009
Purchase College, State University of New York, Artist Talk, Queer Media Convergence class (instructor Shaka McGlotten), 3 Dec.

GALLERY TALKS
2015
White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON, Salon des féministes, Art + Politics, “Regressive Conservative: Margaret Sutherland’s Nude Portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” with Integrity in Politics choir, 3 Oct.
Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, Winnipeg, MB, “Archiving for Artists,” 6 May.
2012
Art Gallery of Mississauga, “Social Media: The Basics,” Mississauga, ON, 25 June.

TEACHING EXPERIENCE

Nipissing University:
Art Against the Academy, FAVA2236, Fall 2016
Arts and Culture in Modern and Contemporary Canada, FAVA2277, Winter 2016
Modern Art and Social Movements, cross-listed with Gender Equality and Social Justice, FAVA2237, Fall 2015
Modern Art and Design History II (20th C.), cross-listed with Gender Equality and Social Justice, FAVA2237, Winter 2014, Winter 2015
Modern Art and Design History I (19th C.), cross-listed with Gender Equality and Social Justice, FAVA2236, Fall 2014
Library instruction sessions for students at graduate and undergraduate level, 2012-present

Purchase College, State University of New York:
Art and the Environment, co-taught with Ryan W. Taylor, ENV 2260, Winter 2010
Library instruction sessions for gallery curators and docents, as well as students in arts management (undergraduate level), studio art (undergraduate and graduate level), and art history (undergraduate and graduate level), and College Writing freshman course; 2018-10

International Language School of Canada:
ESL Instructor for teens and adults, 2001-02

EDITORIAL RESPONSIBILITIES
2017
Manuscript Referee, Art Documentation, Art Libraries Society of North America, Oak Creek, WI
2012
Editor (Interim), Currents newsletter (summer issue), Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON
2011
Associate Editor (Contract), annual volumes of Libraries Canada and Governments Canada, Grey House Publishing Canada, Toronto, ON
2010
Indexer and bibliographer, Posner, Helaine, and Nancy Princenthal, eds. The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power. Purchase, NY and Munich: DelMonico Books·Prestel.
2009
Manuscript Referee, Art Documentation, Art Libraries Society of North America, Oak Creek, WI
2008
Research Assistant, MacDonald, C. S. A Dictionary of Canadian Artists. Vol. 9. Newlands, Anne and Judith Parker, eds. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada.
2007-08
Co-editor with Matthew Ryan Smith. Annual Art Journal, Department of Fine Art, University of Toronto (inaugural issue)
2006-07
Editorial Board Member, Library Student Journal, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Publisher, FUSE magazine, Arton’s Publishing, Toronto, ON
2003-04
Assistant Editor, Contact (peer-reviewed), TESL (Teachers of English as a Second Language) Ontario, Toronto, ON
1997-98
Arts and Entertainment Editor, The Medium (University of Toronto newspaper), Mississauga, ON

PROFESSIONAL SERVICE (ELECTED POSITIONS)
2016-17
Board member, White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON
2011-12
Treasurer and Membership Coordinator, Ontario Chapter, Art Libraries Society of North America
2010-11
Gerd Muesham Award Selection Committee, Art Libraries Society of North America
2007-08
Chair, Archives Committee, Ontario Chapter, Art Libraries Society of North America

DEPARTMENTAL/ UNIVERSITY SERVICE

Nipissing University:
2016-17
Librarian representative, Special Joint Committee, Nipissing University Faculty Association
2016
Chaired hiring committee for contract Librarian
Served on hiring committee for Manager, Archives and Access Services
2015-2017
Member of Fine and Performing Arts marketing committee and strategic planning committee
Alternate Team Leader, Archives Disaster Recovery Plan, Harris Learning Library
Ambassador, Ontario College and University Library Association
2015
Served on hiring committee, Assistant Professor, Art History and Visual Studies (Long-term appointment)
Co-curated Sneak Peek BFA exhibition, The Westlake Gallery, North Bay, ON, with Alex Landon Richardson
2014-2017
Participate in mid-year and end-of-year Bachelor of Fine Arts critiques
Contract Academic Staff Bargaining Unit representative (elected annually)
2013
Served on hiring committee for Manager of Archives and Special Collections
Participated in Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP review) for Gender Equality and Social Justice
2012-2017
Served on one Appointment and Promotion Committee and hiring committee for numerous support staff positions
2012
Participated in Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP review) for Anthropology

Purchase College, State University of New York:
2010
Served on hiring committee for Reference and Instruction Librarian
2009-10
Co-organized library workshops for faculty union
Library liaison for Campus Life committee and Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation (on-campus photography archive)
2009
Chaired hiring committee for Visual Resources Associate
Served on hiring committee for Visiting Assistant Professor of Arts Management
2008-10
Served on two faculty review committees
Served on Arts Management Board of Study
2008-09
Interim coordinator of Visual Resources Collection, including management of three graduate students

COMMUNITY SERVICE
2017
Co-organizer (with Rebecca Kasperavicius), Art + Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thon, White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON
2014-2016
Member, gallery advisory committee, WKP Kennedy Gallery, North Bay, ON
2012
Art Gallery of Mississauga, organized community reading room
2010
Sheridan College, Oakville, ON, technology tutor, Elderly Technology Assistance Program
2005
North Bay Literacy Council, North Bay, ON, tutor
2004
St. Christopher House, Toronto, ON, ESL tutor
2003
Frontier College, Toronto, ON, ESL tutor
1997-98
Community Living Mississauga, Mississauga, ON, Assisted student with learning disabilities develop writing skills

BIBLIOGRAPHY/ MEDIA COVERAGE
2016
Robinson, Christopher. Interview re. The Future of Human(ity) at White Water Gallery, Cogeco TV, July.
2013
Smith, Matthew Ryan. “The Birds and the Bees: Heather Saunders’s Freaky Friday series.” Text accompanying work in progress at College Art Association ARTexchange, organized by Sharon Butler and Timothy Nolan, College Art Association conference, New York.
2012
Boyum, Sarah. “Juried Art Show Displays Work with Sex Themes.” Indiana Daily Student, Indiana University, 20 May.
Inwood, Hillary, and Ryan W. Taylor. “Creative Approaches to Environmental Learning: Two Perspectives on Teaching Environmental Art Education.” International Electronic Journal of Environmental Education 2.1 (2012): 65-75 (peer-reviewed).
2010
Régimbal, Christopher. “Bleaching Out All the Kevins,” essay for Titillate, Gallery 1313. See post below.
Feminist Task Force, American Library Association. “Feminist Librarians on the Web.”
2009
Visual Arts Ontario. Profile, Agenda, Winter.
2008
Landry, Mike. Interview, Things of Desire, 1.12.
2006
Burns, Garry. “Juried Exhibition for All Tastes,” Brantford Expositor 18 Nov.
2005
University of Toronto and Sheridan College Art and Art History website. 10 Graduates. Defunct.
2000
Cove-Shannon, Miranda. “Expect the Unexpected,” Echo Weekly 20-26 Jan.
Kallis, Laurie. “UTM Alumni Explore Women and Wonderland,” The Medium (University of Toronto newspaper), 24 Jan.
1999
Fraser, Oona. Radio interview, CKMS 100.3, University of Waterloo.

LANGUAGES
French (reading ability)
German (reading ability)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Recent and Upcoming

As noted by Hyperallergic, ARTnews, ArtDaily, and Cleveland's The Plain Dealer, I will joining the Cleveland Museum of Art in May as Director of the Ingalls Library. I am humbled and honored by this exciting opportunity, and I look forward to connecting with the local arts community. If you have not visited the museum before, this video gives a terrific overview of it.

The Exquisite Uterus Project celebrates its fifth anniversary at the Gail F. Stienhilber Gallery (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) from March 1-31, 2017. An embroidery of mine, made for the inaugural exhibition, will be included.


Audio is now available for the webinar, “Scholarly Communication in Arts Librarianship,” which took place on November 14, 2016. A big thanks to the ARLIS/NA New England Chapter for providing me with the opportunity to present about blogging as a springboard for scholarly activity and for connecting me with inspiring women in the field! I later jumped at the chance to be part of Art + Feminism, co-founded by ARLIS panelist, Siân Evans. Along with my colleague, Rebecca Kasperavicius, I organized a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on Mar. 30 (6-9 pm) at White Water Gallery to enhance the coverage of feminism and the arts on Wikipedia. Incidentally, the entry I created was for Janet Morton.


The next issue of Magenta will feature my interview with Amanda Burk of Line Gallery. Magenta has also published reviews that I've written of the following: Sally Mann's memoir, Hold Still (Little, Brown and Company, spring 2016); Raphaëlle de Groot's exhibition at the Art Gallery of Windsor (winter 2015); and Natascha Niederstrass' exhibition at Gallery 101 (summer/fall 2015).

The Future of Human(ity), an exhibition of faculty and student work presented by Nipissing University, opened at White Water Gallery in North Bay, ON on July 22, 2016. Cogeco TV interviewed me the following week.

On March 19, 2016, I had the pleasure of discussing Canadian politics with a primarily American audience through the presentation of “Regressive Conservative: Margaret Sutherland’s Nude Portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper” on a panel I facilitated at the Northeast Modern Language Association conference (Hartford, CT), entitled, "Discussing Sexuality in the Liberal Arts: To Clothe or not to Clothe?" Sutherland's Emperor Haute Couture (2011) is shown above.


One of the latest works in my Freaky Friday series was in CROTCH: Contested Territory at Whitdel Arts in Detroit from December 4, 2015 to January 23, 2016. For more on this series, see Matthew Ryan Smith's text 'The Birds and the Bees' in the previous post below.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Birds and the Bees: Heather Saunders’s Freaky Friday Series

By Matthew Ryan Smith

 Annabelle, when you're grown-up, people don't tell you what to do; 
 you have to tell yourself, which is sometimes much more difficult. (i) 


Desire and sex and lust. The conflation of signifiers of sensuality and femininity in female clothing points to a rigorous sexualization of the body beginning in girlhood, through their dress and the way it’s worn. Lace, fishnet, silk, leather, satin, chiffon and latex are shown in their various iterations in children’s fashion. The same materials, fabrics and the words used to describe them host different meanings and associations in adulthood. Yet, somewhere in this liminal divide, childhood and adulthood speak to each other, and the conversation is uncomfortable, like the first time you heard about the birds and the bees.

Trickery and shame and confusion. North Bay, Ontario artist Heather Saunders’s recent series Freaky Friday deconstructs children’s dresses (size 6 or smaller) and reconstructs them into women’s lingerie. Doing so represents a point of intervention into the troubled transition between child and adult clothing (girl and woman fabrics). In this radical strategy for re-appropriation, the physical materials and fabrics originally used for female children’s clothing are imbued with a lurid sexuality fit only for adulthood. The referents to childhood lurk uneasily in Saunders’s lace pale pink bra and black lace underwear. For Anne Hamlyn, fabric is bound up in “the persistent undecidability of the fetishistic fantasy,” (ii) which complicates notions of sexual difference and, to that end, the very notion of the object of desire itself. In Saunders’s work, when fabric is re-appropriated for adulthood means from childhood ends, the powerful shift in meaning denotes that the fetishistic fantasy involving satin, lace and silk may actually be a fetish for youth.

The photographs of Saunders modelling her revised children’s clothing are sexy enough to be convincing but have too many reminders of daily non-glamourized life to be mistaken for boudoir imagery (like cheap apartment flooring and the common backdrop), which cleverly establishes a tension befitting of the project. These amateurized and boudoir-esque images provide a sickening jolt to the senses, which is spurred on by the idea that Saunders’s highly sexualized (adult) body and gaze is subversively marked by children’s clothing, robbing them of their innocence, virtue and purity. This duping, however unexpected or undesired, produces what Brian Massumi calls “a shock to thought,” (iii) that which provokes and stimulates a sustained intellectual inquiry, embodied here as an inquiry into the character of children’s clothing and its unstable relationship to sexuality, femininity and fetishization.

In another work, albeit similar in style and execution, Saunders has cut up a size 6 dress, which includes fuchsia sparkled animal print and shirring with a fuchsia ribbon, and converted it into a salacious negligee. The ribbon that was placed below the waist in the original children’s dress has been relocated to just below the bust (making it an empire waist) in Saunders’s strapless adaptation. The cut, particularly the cutting of female clothing, harks back to Yoko Ono’s iconic Cut Piece (1964) in which the artist invited participants from her audience at Carnegie Hall to mark or take away pieces of her clothing with large silver scissors. With Freaky Friday Saunders has revised Cut Piece in her own way, this time using herself as both the audience and the subject, as a constituent of the double gaze. Although here it’s unapologetically trashy, it’s also a wearable sculptural object inscribed with an edifying autobiographical undertext.

Thus far childless, Saunders, an artist in her 30s, confesses that the Freaky Friday series is as much about children’s clothing as it is about the artist’s concern for placing her imaginative daughter in it. Mary Rodgers’s classic children’s novel Freaky Friday, while giving Saunders’s series its name, also serves as a palpable conceptual template. In the book, a young girl named Annabelle Andrews awakens in her mother’s body (and vice versa) on a Friday morning after a serious argument the previous night. Therefore, in a roundabout way, by wearing young girls’s dresses, Saunders connects herself to the daughter she may never know. Further, the series points to what trauma theorist Cathy Caruth describes as the “double wound,” a trauma inflicted to both the body in a physical sense and the mind in a Freudian sense. (iv) Saunders’s work reconciles her body’s fertility with a mindful fear that bearing children exposes them to a system of representation that sexualizes and fetishizes the other skin they wear.

Although Saunders runs the risk of criticism for self-glorification, which many feminist artists have experienced, the benefit of using her own body to model is that it acts as a personal commentary as much as a socio-political commentary. Freaky Friday is a trial of signification, an uncomfortable interstice between innocence and sex, young and adult, fantasy and fetish. It’s a sensationalized staging of smut with sinister substance. Heather Saunders has made manifest a veritable “clothing line” of little girls in pretty dresses with awkward associations, each questioning the state of the art of feminine sexuality and its bears.

 *Images: Freaky Friday (details), 2012-13, digital photographs, children’s dresses and judys.

Endnotes

 i Rodgers, Mary. Freaky Friday. New York: HarperTrophy 1972.
 ii Hamlyn, Anne. “Freud, Fabric, Fetish,” in Textile, 1.1 (2003): 9-27.
 iii Brian Massumi in Jill Bennett, “On the Subject of Trauma,” in Emphatic Vision: Affect, Trauma, Contemporary Art. (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2005): 11.
 iv Caruth, Cathy. “Introduction: The Wound and the Voice,” in Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. (Baltimore MD & London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996): 3.

Biography

 Matthew Ryan Smith, Ph.D., is a writer, independent curator and educator based in Toronto, ON. His writings have been featured in several Canadian and international publications including C Magazine, ArtUS, FUSE, and Magenta as well as numerous exhibition catalogues (most recently Itamar Jobani’s People of the 21st Century). Matthew has forthcoming publications in the Canadian Journal of Native Studies and TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Titillate opening March 4 at Gallery 1313 (Toronto)

New Fibre Works by Heather Saunders
March 3 to 14, 2010
Reception March 4, 7 to 9 pm
Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St. W., Toronto

Bleaching out all the Kevins
by Christopher Régimbal

She wrote his name in marker in all her bras and underwear and mum found them and bleached out all the Kevins.

- The Virgin Suicides, 1999

Over the past decade, New York-based Canadian fibre artist Heather Saunders has developed a practice based on examining how sensory queues such as texture, colour, and pattern in female fashion subtly, and sometimes overtly, reinforce sex and gender norms in girls and women. In the past, Saunders has refashioned formal wear for girls, lingerie, and wedding dresses to tease out new meaning from these ideological and ceremonial items of female clothing. Her latest exhibition Titillate at Gallery 1313 in Toronto mashes up cupcake imagery and women’s underwear to explore the function of both cuteness and youthfulness in the sexualization of women. Although this exhibition appears at first to be a playful look at a widespread sexual kink, it is also a cautionary exploration of the limits that define sexual behaviour.

The lingerie industry is a world-wide empire that thrives on reinforcing definitions of sexiness and desire in men and women, playing to their fantasies and creating sexual roles for each to inhabit. These roles are illustrated by John Cusack’s character Rob Gordon in the film adaptation of High Fidelity when he rants, “I used to dream I’d be surrounded by exotic, women’s underwear forever and ever. Now I know they just save their best pairs for the nights they know they’re going to sleep with somebody.” Titillate investigates how definitions of sexiness and desire create the conditions that dictate not only how women see themselves but how they see themselves being seen by men. My position as a male writer offers me a perspective to discuss Saunders’ work from the other side of the gendering gaze.

Saunders’ 2006 exhibition Please Touch at the W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery in North Bay consisted of more than twenty cocoon shaped bundles sewn from nighties, bras, women’s underwear, and baby clothing. Even with their otherworldly cocoon shapes, Saunders was able to draw out an unmistakable femininity through her careful choice of materials, textures, forms, and colours. The sculptures made a clear reference to infancy and inevitably induced an “aw, how cute” reaction in many viewers. At the same time, they established a connection between the outfits worn by adult women to sexually entice their partners and the gowns worn by infant girls to symbolize their purity. Her 2008 exhibition When I Was Just a Little Girl, Que Sera Sera? at Gallery 1313 added the element of text to her cocoon sculptures by refashioning baby clothing with captions such as “I’m a baby doll,” and “Mon Ange.” Please Touch and When I Was Just a Little Girl, Que Sera Sera? revealed the relationship between the fetishization of cuteness, its related naughtiness, and the erotic infantilization of women, by presenting it as a process that begins in the very first minutes of life for young girls.

Titillate
returns to the territory that Saunders explored in these two exhibitions, only in this new show, the thread that binds the work together is cupcake imagery. The popularity of cupcakes has exploded in recent years, triggering a proliferation of cupcake boutiques, cookbooks, websites, and clothing. Consider a collection of twenty-five pastel outfits for baby girls that the artist has collected and is displaying in the exhibition. All of them incorporate images of cupcakes, some with seemingly benign captions such as “sweet treat” and “so sweet,” and others with downright creepy captions such as “grandpa’s little cupcake” and “daddy thinks I’m sweeter than sugar”. Along with the collection of baby outfits in Titillate, a twenty-sixth item of clothing recasts the assemblage in a new light: a pink, adult-sized t-shirt that reads “I [cupcake] NY.” Exhibited together, the cupcake outfits trace a gendering path that takes its first steps in infancy and follows countless girls through their lives to adulthood. Worn by adults, the cupcake images that represent the cuteness of baby girls take on an erotic tone, one that is only hinted at in this first example but becomes more evident throughout the exhibition.

Saunders further explores the erotic connotations of cupcakes in Girls I Went to High School With (2010), a set of five embroideries that are adapted from stock photographs of young women suggestively licking and eating the frosted treats. Fair-skinned and youthful women gesture playfully with cupcakes in the source material for the embroideries. All five models in Girls I Went to High School With look adolescent and the cupcakes that they are gesturing with serve only to make them appear younger and more playful. One of the models is wearing a heart shaped tiara and mauve eye makeup and licks her cupcake icing with her mouth wide open while another throws her head back in a playful laughter. The cupcakes on children’s clothing that represent the cuteness of baby girls become phallic stand-ins in a simulation of oral sex. By embroidering the mass-culture images in pink with sparkled thread and pastel colours, effectively turning the source images into a form similar to the sweet treat-type baby clothing, Saunders highlights the absurd imagery of this common advertising trope.

The relationship between the aesthetics of cupcakes, sexuality, and age is further complicated in A-Cup Cakes and D-Cup Cakes (both 2010). The twelve smaller A-Cup Cakes are sewn from pale yellow, blue, pink, mint, mauve, and white underwear, a colour pallet that mimics not only popular cupcake icing flavours but cute baby clothing included in this exhibition as well. The two larger D-Cup Cakes are sewn from lingerie and are topped by a red baby bottle nipple and a red sequin pasty in the stead of the traditional cherry. The floral imagery found in the lace of the underwear and the lingerie lends its design surprisingly well to the icing patterns in these two pieces and is also repeated in the floral tracery pattern on the base of the cake stands that are used to display them. The visual connection between underwear and lingerie patterning and cupcake baking and presentation materials is cleverly made in another work, Ode to Facebook (2010), seven embroidered texts on satin backgrounds that read such things as “chocolate,” “hot pink,” “classic white,” and “pink with polka dots.” These descriptions could easily be drawn from a cupcake decorating cookbook, but they were actually taken from a viral Facebook campaign earlier this year that encouraged women to disclose the colour of their bras in their status updates. The back-story only becomes evident in the last embroidery, which reads “have gone from black to none girls!”, actually lifted from the status of a girl that Saunders went to high school with.

The two themes that Saunders simultaneously develops through this exhibition find their common genesis in the oldest sculpture in the exhibition, Sugar & Spice (2009), a D-sized chocolate coloured bra in the shape of two cherry-topped cupcakes fashioned out of fragments of pale pink lingerie and baby dresses. These two themes are the dual function of cupcakes as children’s desserts and sexual props and the mimicry of baby clothes in erotic lingerie. The act of licking cupcakes in mock fellatio is reversed in Sugar & Spice, as the cupcakes become a sexual toy that prompts the male to lick his partner’s breasts like icing. Although the proposition of bringing a giant cupcake bra into the bedroom seems farcical, is it really that much more farcical than the absurdity of erotically emulating the child-like behaviour of licking icing off of the top of a cupcake? Sugar & Spice reasserts the line between girl and woman, playfulness and fetishization, and Martha Stewart propriety and “Girls Gone Wild” obscenity, which have become strangely and sometimes dangerously blurred in contemporary society.

Although a sexualization of cupcake cuteness seems on the surface to be harmless, taken to its extreme of pornographic depictions of “Barely Legal” women in pink panties, pigtails, and cotton socks, it can in instances lead to the abuse and humiliation of young women. The vast majority of the time, the mangling of Magnolia Bakery cuteness with Victoria Secret sexiness is just another in a series of strange things that happens in the bedrooms of the world. By approaching her subject with a certain amount of humour, Saunders’ cupcake bra sculptures and embroideries take the piss out of the whole thing.

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