June 16, 2015

Sewing Up Her Solo – Spring 2015 SOLOS

By Haley Clouser, Arlington Arts Center’s Curatorial & Exhibitions Intern

On view in AAC’s Tiffany Gallery is Kate Kretz‘s exhibition in this year’s Spring SOLOS. Don’t worry about stepping on any pins or needles — but maybe keep an eye out for your hair!

Installation image from Kate Kretz show in the 2015 Spring SOLOS. Photo by Greg Staley
Installation image from Kate Kretz show in the 2015 Spring SOLOS. Photo by Greg Staley

Trained as a painter, Kretz mainly focuses on painting but she also has an itch for stitch. As you walk through the Tiffany Gallery, you’ll see multiple frames hung with small embroidery pieces — but you definitely need to take a closer look.

What makes these seemingly normal pieces stunning is that they are sewn with human hair. Yes, you read that right. Hair.

Kretz states that she wants to show the viewer “the ways that women are defined and limited in our society.” To do this, she creates her pieces with strands of grey, blonde, and brunette hair.

The work is layered and dense, and for me the embroidery called to mind the typical roles women play and have played in domestic life such as mothers and seamstresses. She emphasizes this oppression on women and how they are bound- or stitched – to their societal role. As seen with Your Fragility…, the artist used her own hair, collected during her pregnancy, to embroider a poignant and moving statement onto a child’s garment.

By replacing the thread with her hair, the work becomes a metaphor illustrating that society often binds women to this motherly role. In my perspective, Kretz reveals the oppression of women by dealing with gender-assigned duties (such as sewing and childcare) in her work.

Your Fragility..., Kate Kretz, mother's hair from gestation period embroidered on child's garment, 2010
Your Fragility…, Kate Kretz, mother’s hair from gestation period embroidered on child’s garment, 2010. Taken from the Kate Kretz Website

Alternatively, I can see Your Fragility…as a demonstration of the precious process undertaken when bringing new life into the world.

The mere title of the piece hints at the fragility, innocence, and vulnerability of both mother and newborn child due to their tender physical states and innocent discovery of their part in this experience.

The use of hair further represents this fragility by its tendency to split and break easily and the use of hair as thread symbolizes the personal bond the mother creates with the child.

Because we each have a different experience with childhood, mothers, society, and even hair, Kretz’s work may speak to each of us differently. The only way to know is to come experience it for yourself!

The 2015 Spring SOLOS exhibition is on view until June 28. For more information about the show the website, or better yet, stop by to see Kretz and her fellow SOLOS shows before they close – galleries are open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 pm!

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