Jess de Wahls

Jess de Wahls is a textile artist who creates embroideries and retex sculptures. I first discovered her during her ongoing project of ‘Big Swinging Ovaries’ on Instagram, where she embroiders patches of ovaries with middle fingers or merged with other imagery. She has also embroidered patches with women posed with their arm in a position showing their bicep, representing how strong and empowering they really are.

I admire her embroideries because I have never seen such detailed embroidery like hers before. Her pieces genuinely look like paintings as she pays attention to tiny details such as shading. I also really enjoy looking at her retex sculptures, as the technique and skill behind them seek to fascinate me. Retex and soft sculptures is something I took in to consideration for my Degree show however I felt that I would like more experience with embroidery before attempting this.

The context of her work focuses on intersectional Feminism, as she creates portraits of people from all over the world of all genders. Social media, Instagram in particular, has a huge online presence of textile artists who all explore social unjust and intersectional Feminism.

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Hanecdote – Hannah Hill

Hanecdote is a young embroidery artist who I discovered through Instagram. Her work explores Feminism, body positivity and the London grime scene. I admire her free hand embroidery as I respect the difficulty of the technique and the level of skill she obtains. Hannah is a really influential online presence in regards to the context of her artwork and Instagram posts, her artwork has even been used by the UAL student’s union and grime artist Nadia Rose. I was so intrigued by Hannah’s work and context that I interviewed her for my MCP.

What do you think of embroidery as a medium within a Fine Art practice?

I think embroidery is such a versatile medium, which can be used seamlessly with other mediums in endless ways. Embroidery and other textiles techniques have been used by feminist artists who want to reclaim space in the art world with mediums which don’t have such historical connections with men. 

With the ongoing development of technology, why do you think artists of our generation have decided to revert back to forms of needlework as a medium?

I think its nice to take a step back from technology and to immerse yourself in an activity which takes skill or time and concentration. I find it relaxing to focus on the process of hand making something, its so rewarding. I love technology, Im obsessed with instagram, so I actually like the contrast of a traditional medium such as stitching and then sharing on social media.

Do you think social media has impacted how women see themselves?

Social media has definitely impacted how I see myself and other women. Online I follow babes of all colours, shapes, sizes and abilities, who are beautiful inside and out and share ways of learning to love yourself. 

What does body positivity mean to you?

Body positivity means being kinder to yourself and being kinder to others. Trying to unlearn toxic thought processes about body image and beauty standards and going by what you are most comfortable with yourself. Not judging anyone else choices about their bodies. It feels like constant work but i has to be worth it in the end.

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Red Fountains – Mexico Embroidering For Peace

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In Coyoacan, Mexico, a group of creatives known as the Fight for Love, Truth and Justice Collective embroider and knit for ‘hope and memory’. They are all relatives of the missing people of the war on drugs. Embroidered on handkerchiefs,are the names and descriptions of each victim. They are tied to what looks similar to a washing line, to be displayed in public squares across the country.  Men also embroider in this collective which they make very clear.

Copenhagen

I was lucky enough to visit Copenhagen in March where I went to the Copenhagen Contemporary. There were two pieces which stood out the most to me;

Pierre Huyghe – Untitled (Human Mask)

Huyghe’s film was based on an isolated monkey wearing a human mask. The monkey was immersed in an empty environment, discovering found objects within its location. Even if I wanted to, I could not take my focus away from this film. The placement of the mask on the monkey made it very surreal and almost like an illusion. At first, it was difficult to tell whether this was human or not. Your brain knows it isn’t human-like body language but the characteristics deceive that knowledge. The dress and long hair truly make it look like a little girl stranded on her own. I really enjoyed watching this film as it really opened my mind to the playfulness that can go in to a piece.

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Yoko Ono -Wish Tree Garden

Yoko Ono’s ‘Wish Tree’ has been an ongoing artwork since 1996, with multiple trees all over the world in different locations, the tree is altered to the specific climate of that place. The viewer is given the option to write a wish on a white tag, to then tie to the tree. There is something very peaceful alongside a community feel with this installation. It isn’t digging for an opinion of the artwork itself, but asking you to participate in an ongoing project. The idea of writing a wish also seems quite personal, as her end goal of the collection of these wishes are. All the tags will be collected to create an installation in Iceland dedicated to her late husband John Lennon titled ‘Imagine Peace Tower’.

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RIOTGAL Exhibition

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After following Instagram user Sophie Tassew ‘manlikesophia’ who is a young artist and curator exploring feminism in diversity. She curated an exhibition called ‘RIOTGAL’ at the Hospital Club in Central London on International Women’s Day. It was a very inspiring experience, seeing young female artists a similar age to me exhibiting their artworks in an extremely well put together exhibition by Sophia. Each artwork looked in to feminism and female inequality in a variety of cultures and religions around the world, raising awareness to these issues not necessarily covered by the mainstream media. RIOTGAL alongside the PPD lecture series have sparked an interest in curation and the organisation and planning behind exhibitions and events similar to this. It was really inspiring to be a part of this evening at the Hospital Club, discovering that there is most definitely a movement of Feminism and equality in the young people of art hub in London, and social media is definitely the most important networking platform for this.

Pussy Hats

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A Women’s march took place on 21st January 2017, on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Millions of people gathered to march  the cities of the world to protest for human rights, including women’s rights, racial inequality and immigration reform. In preparation for this, knitting shop owners Krista Suh and Jayna Zwiman from Los Angeles, released tutorial on how to knit or crochet a ‘Pussyhat’ as well as making hundreds themselves to give out at the march. The hat, shaped in a beanie style with cat ears on either side, was encouraged for women to make for the march. The symbolism of cat ears attempts to reclaim the derogatory term ‘pussy’ Trump had used in 2005. Zweiman estimated over 100,000 people had downloaded the tutorial as it was proven to be extremely popular in marches worldwide. The march had an outstanding turn out, with appearances from celebrities such as Madonna, Emma Watson and Feminist icon Gloria Steinhem. It is estimated that the total number of marchers across the world was 4.9 million, in a total of 673 marches.

Paris

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I was lucky enough to visit Paris for one evening, to visit the art galleries and experience the Parisian culture that I never had before. I visited the Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou. It was really interesting to visit the art galleries in Paris as I had never been to either of these galleries, or Paris, ever before. I went with my friends from Wimbledon College of Art so it was really interesting to experience this with fellow young artists. I found a lot of inspiring artworks, particularly at the Centre Pompidou, looking in to femininity and the role of women within society. Niki de Saint Phalle’s piece of the doll’s dress was my favourite piece of artwork I saw in Paris. The materials she used I found most interesting, having experimented with sculpture a lot during my second year. It was also intriguing to see a feminist piece from 1963 in exhibition for two reasons; to compare the context of then to now, and most feminist artworks I see in exhibition today are very modern, 21st century artists.