Two exhibits opening at Bergamot Station this weekend will take a close look at handicrafts traditionally done by women and recast them into a feminist narrative. Artists Isabelle Harada and Riin Kaljurand work in very different mediums, but explore notions of femininity and seek to elevate traditional handmade crafts to a higher purpose.
Harada’s work, WORK/W=Fd at Sloan Projects is described by the gallery as consisting of “999 golden paper cranes suspended from the ceiling and a looped projection on a single unfolded sheet, bathed in an artificial sunset.” In Japanese tradition, a woman will fold 1000 paper cranes while engaged. Her father will then present the cranes to her husband upon their marriage. The cranes are a symbol of good luck and a wish for prosperity.
The breakdown of the artist’s own marriage engagement inspired WORK/W=Fd. Each crane takes approximately 10 minutes to fold, requiring the same combination of folds and force to complete. The result is Harada’s exploration of the “work” that goes into a relationship, the promise of long term commitment and the way traditional crafts can define and constrain women’s roles.
In WORK/W=Fd, light and shadow are also at play. Harada describes the piece as “shining a spotlight on incongruities” that arise in any process. The artificial light provides the artist the opportunity for commentary on the nature of control, artistry, light, dark and beauty.
At the Craig Krull Gallery, Beth Parker has curated a show entitled, Paint is a Thing, featuring the work of seven different artists. Estonian-born artist Riin Kaljurand uses paint as a thing to question a “socially constructed idea of femininity.” Her collages are made from layers of different paints. She employs handcraft techniques such as basket weaving, knitting and crocheting to explore imagery and roles around women. She uses photographs from a magazine called Soviet Woman as inspiration. On her website, Kaljurand says that these photographs usually “feature women hard at work in traditionally ‘masculine’ milieus like farms, factories and construction sites.”
The repurposing of paint and handicraft techniques Kaljurand employs create works thick in substance and exploration of the female form, traditional roles and the paradox and idiosyncrasies of the Soviet era. She uses the paint to become “the surface as well as the medium.” Like Harada, Kaljurand pushes the viewer to look beyond custom and practice in hand made crafts, beyond a flat depiction of women’s roles and to engage with artwork that goes against convention, inviting one to reach out and touch.
Isabelle Harada’s work, Work/W=Fd can be viewed at the Sloan Projects Gallery from July 9 – 30 at 2525 Michigan Avenue, Gallery B5 in Santa Monica. Riin Kaljurand’s work will be on view as part of Paint is a Thing at the Craig Krull Gallery beginning July 9 and running through August 20 at 2525 Michigan Avenue, Building B3. Join both artists for opening receptions on July 9 from 5-7pm.