Modified from Cultural Woman Value (2016 MFA Thesis)
The unique and engaging qualities of soft sculpture bear fertile ground for feminist content. Often crafted through traditionally feminine disciplines, soft sculpture possesses a certain aura.
Exploration into the language of domesticity has precedence in the work of artist Martha Rosler. Tackling the problem of housewifery in her performance art video Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), Rossler displays a unique blend of detachment and rage. Her parody of a cooking demonstration challenges the associations attached to common kitchen utensils. Situated somewhere between tension and humor, Rosler manages to skew the mass-media image of the smiling, suburban homemaker, thereby challenging the theory of semiotics. Rosler’s deliberate misrepresentation of the labor of cooking sabotages the function. The subversion of function nudges the viewer into reconsidering pre-conceived associations linked to common cultural artifacts.
Surrealist artist Méret Oppenheim expresses her frustration around women’s internalization of cultural woman value: “That is why women do not and cannot appreciate each other. You cannot appreciate a non-value.” With Object (Breakfast in Fur) (1936), Oppenheim assigns
a feminine material to a feminine subject matter, thereby creating a lastingly provocative work. She envelops a cup, saucer, and spoon with the fur of a Chinese gazelle. The result creates
a cascade of revelations, liberating an everyday object from its functionality and removing it from the sphere of consumerism. She combines the domesticity of a tea cup with the female adornment of fur.
In Jackets for Coffee (2015), the styrofoam coffee cups are clothed in stylish wraps made from recycled men’s button-down shirts. The wraps are lined and maintain some of the original, practical shirt details such as buttons and pockets. Although the subject matter of a Styrofoam cup likely reads as gender-neutral, I wondered if the female action of sewing would render a gender-coded critique.