Re-framing the Gender Divide, Large Scale Abstraction Meets Needlework

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Art Practice | Arts and Humanities | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Elaine Rutherford, Art


While these paintings help me explore my background, I am also discovering that they are becoming a vehicle for opening up various gender issues. Combining the mediums that I have creates a kind of marriage between the “high art” of painting with craft or “domestic arts” such as embroidery. Painting has been a historically male-dominated field while the “domestic arts” such as sewing or embroidery are traditionally perceived as “woman’s work.” I like to question what art forms can be taken seriously. Are these traditions or needlework that connects me to my family and past as well as women around the world not respected because a woman creates them instead of a man? My choice of media, sewing, embroidery and needlework all connect to memories of my mother’s art and my childhood. I can remember her stitching embroidery for quilt squares at night under the living room lamp. My work is based on a sense of nostalgic memory from my childhood. I grew up in a big old house that was always full of family and forgotten things that we accumulated. Exploring my past as I near college graduation allows me to move in a new direction while remaining attached to home.