This is the first in a multi-part series of posts about my new fabric relief piece, Cover Up. It’s the female counterpart to Whiskers, my previous exploration of men’s facial hair styles. Cover Up focuses on women’s head coverings that serve as identifying markers imposed by the conventions of a particular time and place throughout history. I want the 45 characters to invite comparison and point out contrasts and similarities between different societies, whether they are open or restrictive in tolerating self expression and individuality.
I loved the research phase of the project and spent many days hunting down images of women from around the world, each wearing a form of covering that reveals something about the culture they come from. I’ve depicted individuals with all sorts of veils, scarves, hats, makeup and facial markings that reflect different notions of female modesty, attractiveness, fashion, status and conformity.
While searching through the images, I considered this question, “At what point does a bold, new fashion statement evolve into just another form of conformity that brands a group identity?” I also reflected on being a part of our diverse American society that is made up of immigrants and how this experience may influence one’s perception of “the other”.
The possibilities were endless and I could have kept making new heads for a long time, but I had to narrow it down and chose styles that I thought would best represent a variety of cultures. In a lot of cases it came down to choosing depictions that had characteristics I found personally intriguing.
After finishing the portraits and before making the background field to put them in, I took separate photos of each one and shared them on Instagram and Facebook. I invite you to follow me on these other social media sites for more frequent postings and notices, which include behind the scenes pictures.
The response to the photos was so enthusiastic that I decided to print a poster which shows enlargements (200%) of a selected collection of these portraits. The 12 x 17 poster (shown left) is available in my Etsy Shop here.
Cover Up is part of a series that includes Face Time and Whiskers, which focus on bringing to life different people from around the world, using themes of history, style and cultural identity. In each piece, head and shoulder busts peek out of “cameo” framed holes. Their faces are painted 20mm wooden beads, with wigs and adornments, similar to the doll heads in my how-to book Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.
Cover Up is part of my exhibit, Hanging by a Thread: Needle Art of Salley Mavor at Gallery 65 on William in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The show will be there until April 1st, 2017. Gallery open hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 – 5:00.
Please stay tuned for more posts about making Cover Up. Coming up are more photos of the portraits and how the felt background was made. My husband Rob is even working on a short video with material he filmed while I was stitching the piece. Read (part 2) and (part 3 & video).