The Embroidered Image is "Sew Revealing" at Robert Mann Gallery
By Jessica Dawson
For women, photos are the things we live up to—and get shown up by—every single day. We get it: Once you're in the pages of Vogue, your thighs and breasts belong to surgery or Photoshop, or both. It's not reality.
Traditionally, sewing is women's work, and many of these artists (all but two are women) address the constraints of gender.
Yet our mammalian brains, impervious to logic and fond of fantasy, remain willing to think, if for a moment: Could this be real? And, more important: Should this be me?
So let the weak among us bid welcome to photography shows alert to the lies photos tell us. "The Embroidered Image," at Chelsea's Robert Mann Gallery, is one such enterprise; it collects 11 artists who alter photos with needle and brightly hued thread, adding the most flagrant of adornments to found and new images. Each reminds us of a photograph's inclination to enhance, exposing the artifice inside every frame.
Traditionally, sewing is women's work, and many of these artists (all but two are women) address the constraints of gender. Several use portraits of 1950s-era ladies done up in bouffants, or old Hollywood movie stars, or generally gorgeous folk. Jessica Wohl sews starburst-like masks across sitters' faces, lending them a mystical, almost animal quality that suggests a wildness lurking below the costumes of polite society. Hagar Vardimon stitches cheerful colored threads in fishnet patterns across headshots of black-and-white movie stars like Joan Fontaine, as if plotting out a face lift or a skin disease. Whether it's to ruin or enhance her subjects' beauty remains unclear.
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