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Feminism in art of artists born on or after 1970
ALEXIA MELLOR

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Rules of Engagement: Creating a Feminine Aesthetic of Humor and Play


Humor and play have a longstanding tradition in art as a tool for subversion. Feminism in particular used humor's ability to destabilize social norms and critically address socio-political issues. In my own practice I investigate the potential of humor to offer insight into the continuing questions of identity formation that the Feminist movement of the 1970s raised. Using performance as a methodology, three of my recent projects address recurring themes from feminism: the workplace, the body, and the domestic.

In Extending the Friendly Skies I use the persona of a 1960s stewardess to enter public space and perform actions from flight safety routines. This nostalgic icon harks back to an era when women's role in the workforce was often limited to extending the domestic sphere. As a young girl, I dreamt of being a stewardess: the glamour, jet-setting around the world, but as I grew up I became aware of the realities and hazards of the occupation that included random weight checks, mandatory girdles and forced retirement at 30. Witnesses to my performances immediately recognize this figure, amused by her absurdity. However, in this post-9/11 world and the current global economic crisis, the stewardess raises red flags to the dark side of this comical situation.



Continuing with childhood dreams, I undertook a 37-day performance attempting to recapture my lost dream of being an Olympic swimmer. Referencing Eleanor Antin's seminal Carving piece, Carving the Road to London tracked the physical, mental and emotional journey of my 36-year old body and failure to make the US Olympic team. Documenting myself in my swimsuit in the locker room certainly opened the door for giggles and questions, and as a result other women shared their triumphs - from learning how to swim at 50 to combating MS with daily laps- as well as their struggles of being a woman in a man's world.



My current project A {Digital} Stitch in Time involves translating Internet memes from a pixilated image to a cross-stitched tapestry. Memes offer a window into our growing online and digital cultures, but unlike craft objects they have a short shelf life, circulating rapidly and receding quickly from our memories. Combining the digital and domestic, I suggest a non-conventional use of craft to address and record contemporary issues through the laborious and social process of needlework.



A key factor in my practice lies in a desire to create temporary communities by encouraging participation with the work, something I see as particularly associated with the feminine. Like sewing circles in the days of old, the creative process offers a common activity to involve people and share. In an increasingly globalized and mediated world, the social connection associated with traditional feminine activities, and humor have become vital and craved. Rather than countering the feminine, I actively draw on its power and ability to engage in a questioning of the issues defining 21st century life.

more info: alexiamellor.com

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