Chapell Hill News
Women find power and direction through clothing
Orange Cultural Arts Group
Tiffany Ludwig and Renee Piechocki
Friday, July 18, 2003
question "What do women wear that makes them feel powerful?"
was asked to Orange County women over a week’s time in April,
when our collaborative project, “Two Girls Working,”
brought Trappings to Orange County through funding from the Orange
County Arts Council’s Artist Project Grant.
is an ongoing interview-based project of multiple parts that begin
in October 2001. Interview sessions are the first aspect of the
artwork, where women are invited to a social, interview environment
to discuss what they wear to make them feel powerful.
of Trappings, which include images and audio interviews, were
held in multiple locations during 2002 and 2003, including the
Durham Arts Council, the North Carolina Council on the Arts and
the Longwood Gallery in New York. An ongoing and expanding presentation
of the work exists online at www.twogirlsworking.com.
of interesting, thought-provoking and responsive women participated
in interview sessions designed to get them talking about the process,
responsibility and outcome of being an image maker. Our question
ignites conversations concerning clothing, power and the construction
of personal identity both for the camera and for each other. This
has initiated dialogues that range from simple descriptions of
an outfit’s comfort and practicality as a tool for power
to the use of sex as a strategy in business and social settings
as well as the use of clothing as a way to connect with cultural
or personal history as power sources.
Orange County, we met with a group of women who live at Carol
Woods, the Carr-Court Quilters, the performance art group the
Country Kings, the staff of the Women’s Center and their
after-school group Teens Climb High, and a group of young women,
staff and friends of Street Scene.
we were only able to take up the entire edition of this newspaper,
we could talk about each of the women that we met. All of the
interview sessions were compelling, touching and fun. Some of
the responses we received include:
A woman who wears her grandmother’s coat to connect with
the strong women in her family and her personal history.
A teenage community organizer who wears African kente cloth to
remind herself of the power derived from her cultural heritage.
An activist whose circular brooch signifies the need for women
to claim their own power to connect, communicate and challenge
the world around us.
A participant who wears men’s clothing, finding power and
identity outside of traditional gender rules.
A woman whose best Sunday hat reminds her of the power connected
to church and family.
grew from our dismay at the lack of dialogue about feminism and
women’s issues amongst our peers. We initiated Trappings
to create a platform for women to talk about power, identity,
and women’s issues in a non-threatening and approachable
way. We understaood that an event or project that called for an
overt discussion of feminism would strategically draw less participation,
so we begin with a question everyone addresses in order to reach
the most women possible.
designed Trappings to not be a vehicle that merely presents our
own viewpoints about feminism and power, but to be a vehicle for
participants and project viewers to explore their own ideas about
power, as well as question their own expectations, beliefs and
assumptions based on appearance. We want the project to be responsive
and not illustrative, and are committed to reaching out to a diverse
range of women’s voices. In the end, we hope the project
blurs the lines of art, activism, public art, advocacy, communication
far, we have met with more than 170 women from North Carolina,
New York, New Jersey, Mississippi and Tennessee. If you would
like to hear audio interviews and see images of the women we have
interviewed, images of past exhibitions and future projects, visit
our Web site, www.twogirlsworking.com.
We would like to thank all of the women who participated in Trappings
this April. We loved meeting all of you! Thank you also to the
Orange County Arts Commission for funding this round of interview