We’ve all heard of suffering for our art. For most of us that includes an all-nighter with enough caffeine to kick start a tractor or training all the hours the clock can send to make it through the London marathon but artist Eliza Bennett takes it to a whole new level.
Bennett’s been making waves by embroidering self-inflicted sculptures into the flesh of her hands. For part of her series entitled ‘A Woman’s Work Is Never Done’, Bennett is using embroidery to portray the effects of hard work on the body. It showcases the labour specifically associated with the female gender such as cleaning and catering; contradicting the belief that ‘women’s work’ is nothing more than a straight forward walk in the park.
“By using the technique of embroidery, which is traditionally employed to represent femininity and applying it to the expression of its opposite, I hope to challenge the pre-conceived notion that ‘women’s work’ is light and easy. Aiming to represent the effects of hard work arising from employment in low paid ‘ancillary’ jobs, such as cleaning, caring and catering, all traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’.”
“Some viewers consider the piece to be a feminist protest, for me it’s about human value. After all, there are many men employed in caring, catering, cleaning etc… all jobs traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’. Such work is invisible in the larger society, with ‘A woman’s work’ I aim to represent it.”
With her professional history it’s not a surprise that of all the artists in the world it was Bennett who chose to use her own skin as a canvas. After a BTEC National Diploma in Art specializing in Textiles and an undergraduate degree in Fashion Design from Middlesex University, Bennett was left with a passion for visual narrative. This lead her to work in costume design and prop making before branching out to create her own works of art. A true artist, with a desire to tell a story, Bennett confesses
“I need authentic experiences of my own, In the act of creating this becomes possible”.
“I sculpt because I am driven to commit a feeling to something tangible. My work is endowed with a narrative quality. Through a personally charged perception, I explore a range of issues relating to the formlessness of both individual and social reality. This evolves from a close reading of discourse and neuroses surrounding the condition of human existence. Often I translate the organic body shape into elements accomplished by a distortion of what is known. By describing the world as I perceive and exist within it, the element of personal mirroring may also act as a reflective process for the viewer. To me what makes a powerful work of art, is when it moves one to acknowledge the wealth of feelings inside, whilst embracing the incoherence of lived experience.”
Personally, I think the work sends a great message out to the world. For centuries women have been doing these chores, taking care of their families and in the current economic state, immigrants are coming in doing similar jobs. Bennett is showing that household jobs are nothing to scoff at.
Eliza Bennett’s full portfolio of work can be viewed at http://www.elizabennett.co.uk/
What do you think of this kind of artwork? Is it painfully pretty or just cool meets creepy? Scroll down to the bottom of the page to give us your take or head over to SANT Magazine to give your two cents. You can also tweet us @SANTmagazine to have your say #elizabennettembroidery
Words: Kemi Akilapa