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CORNFIELD MARY, 2020

sewn satin, cording 

approx. 6ft x 3ft

 

Historically, decoration and handicraft have been regarded as women’s work because they are associated with the domestic and the feminine. Art critic Clement Greenberg claims that the decorative aesthetic is “mechanical rather than felt out.’ This holds a notion of craft as automatic labor, receptive, and consequently unartistic. These attributes of precision and neatness are assigned to the decorative as evidence of crafts distinction from art. This almost machine-like means of production is what Barbro is interested in. The subversive history of sewing and needlework intertwined with its systematic production presents two forms of labor — artistic and domestic. The methodical, repetitive and physical act of sewing signifies the body as machine performing the same action over. To be mechanical, in this sense, is to be kitsch. Kitsch operates by formulas. There is no discomfort, no ugliness or awkwardness, no sense of intruding on privacy. Cornfield Mary challenges this by evoking experiences that are deeply personal to the artist. Kitsch operates as a mode of distraction that soothes us with objects that are uncompromisingly comfortable. In a preliminary surface level evaluation of Cornfield Mary, the utilization of vibrant colors, familiar icons and materials evoke the same ‘cheap’ emotions as kitsch; yet its context elicits the uncomfortableness of performative religion in the Midwest. This reclamation of the decorative uses the public sphere of the gallery to highlight experiences and discussions that typically happen in the private sphere of the home.