Home Women’s Work: Reflections on the History of Women in Textile

Women’s Work: Reflections on the History of Women in Textile

by Meredith Areskoug
Bettina Matzkuhn, Life Jacket: Work, 2018, hand-painted embroidered linen, canvas, sewing notions and mirror


By Michael Turner

Mounted in conjunction with the Vancouver-held annual conference of the Textile Society of America, this exhibition showcases 15 BC-based fibre artists and their interpretations of Italian Renaissance masterworks – in this instance, focusing on the role of women throughout history, as depicted in Italian painting and sculpture. Curating the exhibition is Angela Clarke, who holds a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from UBC, with a specialty in female-oriented arts and crafts from the Renaissance to the present.

As with many Renaissance-era paintings and sculptures, the emphasis is on exalted themes. For example, Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1647-52) pays tribute to women as spiritual guides and teachers, while paintings such as Ambrogio de Predis’ portrait of Bianca Maria Sforza (Queen of the Romans, c. 1493) provide insights into the historic development of marriage. But the aim of this exhibition, according to Clarke, “is not only to demonstrate the non-political ways in which women demonstrated their signifi cant contribution to society, but also to put ‘women’s work,’ the textile arts of needlepoint, crochet, embroidery, sewing, knitting, spinning and loom work, on an equal footing with the traditionally male-dominated arts of painting and sculpture.”

Among the works on display are Bettina Matzkuhn’s Life Jacket: Work (2018), a handmade safety garment with an embroidered landscape liner based on a painting by a nun traditionally identified as Suor Maria Celeste; Barbara Heller’s Moira (2018), a handwoven tapestry inspired by the marble Statue of Eirene (the personifi cation of peace); and Linda Coe’s Critical Choice Bride (2018), a fabric collage in response to de Predis’ portrait.