shows clothing as power outfits
CYNTHIA R. GREENLEE-DONNELL, The Herald-Sun
December 11, 2002 11:16 am
Artists Renee Piechocki and Tiffani Ludwig have their own definitions
of "power dressing," and those definitions include boxer’s
trunks, leather trousers, smart pantsuits, purple underwear and
a 20-year-old pair of jeans.
their multimedia exhibit now at the Durham Arts Council, shows
29 girls’ and women’s ideas of their personal power
name Two Girls Working, Chapel Hill-based Piechocki and Ludwig
of Jersey City, N.J., asked more than 100 women in Mississippi,
New Jersey, New York and North Carolina the same question: "What
do you wear that makes you feel powerful?"
30, and Ludwig, 28, recorded the answers, and that raw material
became "Trappings." Large prints of 11 women dot the
walls of the Allenton Gallery; the other 18 are shown in smaller
players, available at the lobby desk, offer audioessays where
the women speak for themselves about six themes: work; social
status; sex and gender; transformation; personal power; and money.
make the man, as the old saying, goes, then they certainly can
mold the woman and signal her cultural role. During the sexual
revolution of ’60s and ’70s, budding feminists were
accused of bra-burning or dressing like men. The miniskirt was
a shocking development.
judged by appearance," said Jennifer Collins, one of several
local women in the exhibit and the arts council’s artist
services associate. "But women are valued by appearance."
that though the interviewees range in age from 5 to early 70s,
they all seemed to look at clothing as more than mere decoration.
most taken aback by how prepared women came to speak to us. It
was as though people have thought about this question before.
[We’d get] not a prescribed answer, but something very thoughtful,
very genuine. The process of image-making, presentation, how you’re
seen … can become very revealing."
who generally paints landscapes, and Ludwig, a multimedia artist,
met at a New York arts conference in 2000. The two hit it off
and stayed in touch after Piechocki moved to Chapel Hill.
In hours of
long-distance telephone talks, Piechocki said: "We started
talking about how disturbed we were at how little art deals with
contemporary women’s issues. ... We tried to come up with
a question [that a women could answer] whether you are the head
of the Daughters of the Confederacy or the head of the Carrboro
Women’s Center. Everybody gets dressed."
universal fact, the social necessity of concealing the body, each
"Trappings" woman had her own message.
In the tapes,
teen-ager Rachel opines that "something you can wear in front
of your dad -- that’s what I say is appropriate." A
mom calls halter tops "disrespectful." Purple undies
are another woman’s "secret source of power,"
and Clara of Oxford, Miss., has three outfits that express her
woman speaks about how wearing her chador (head scarf) feels oppressive.
But, according to Piechocki, a member of the Nation of Islam,
Crystal, discussed about how such garments make her feel appreciated
for her mind, not body.
29 women and girls, there was no one definition of power; it could
be spiritual, maternal, professional, sexual, and intellectual.
and Ludwig differ slightly about the political and social bent
of their work.
women to "Trappings parties," where they would share
their stories, Piechocki said that she wouldn’t use the
"F-word" -- feminism. Ludwig, on the other hand, said:
"I know the connotation with an artwork being called a feminist
piece of art, but that’s definitely a label I’m willing
to take on."
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