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oh, expectations

BFA Thesis show

For my BFA thesis, I investigated the materiality I've associated with domestic households. Much of this domestic imagery is dated and reminiscent of my own white, lower-middle class, midwestern, suburban background. Many family houses I encountered in my youth seemed to incorporate the same principle designs (ducks, chickens, bunnies, bows, lace and, most significantly, flowers). These decorative elements represented happy, healthy domestic situations, and even now when I see them, my mind clouds over with nostalgic confusion.

In my work I often use these nostalgic materials in juxtaposition with more complicated scenes of child development to expose the underlining tension between expectation, facade, and reality. In my and my friends’ households growing up, I often had an underlying sense that something was wrong; some unspoken truths and unhealthy power dynamics were hidden under doilies and behind bunny wallpaper. 


In my undergraduate research, I focused on romanticism through a feminist lens - as a mechanism of power and control. In this installation I’ve built an architecture of memory inhibited by gendered play. I tried to embody the uncomfortable tension between wanting to believe we have surpassed feminist struggles, and acknowledging that, at least in myself, there is still patriarchal dirt in the cellar of my subconscious. There is a promise of fulfillment tied with dependence under the guise of romance. This promise molded my understanding of being a young woman. This domestic sphere that I examine is reenacted with obsessive decoration while existing as a complete aesthetic failure.

The kitchen is made up of used floral patterned materials from local thrift stores, mostly sheets and blankets but also clothing, wallpaper and wrapping paper. This wonky space resembles a child's fort/playhouse, but the construction is also just slightly too sophisticated for a child to have actually made it. When examining the main components of the kitchen, the viewer discovers that these compartments do not function as initially expected. The refrigerator does not store items meant to put into the body, but instead stores abjections, or items released from the body. The sink cupboards do not function as storage spaces; when one opens the cupboards, one is opening up spaces that are typically forbidden and enclosed. In opening the oven, the viewer expects to find a wholesome, nourishing item; instead, the viewer is confronted with blatant sexual imagery. The flame is ignited.

This piece is a complicated exploration of an aesthetic of domestic-feminine space – occupying its expectations and its repressions. I took up an old feminist trope by focusing on the kitchen, but I used this supposed space of entrapment as a vessel in which to unravel the ways a certain kind of femininity is conditioned. This is a space – a child’s play space – an adult woman’s creation. Through the perspective of a woman and a child, I examine the same environment and promises from different life stages, and different understandings of what it all means. Behind the promises and the expectations, the subconscious and subliminal can’t help but seep through. It is a stage/set/play place in which the performance of gendered roles occurs. Through the gaze of a child, I understand what I have forgotten as an adult – it is all just a game. 

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