"Endowment: Refittings"
January/February 1995
The Art Gym, Marylhurst College
Marylhurst, Oregon

A Curator's Statement

Several years ago, I visited Ann Gardner in her studio at the time she was beginning to work on pots. These were commercial ceramic pots she was encrusting with fragments of knick-knacks, broken dishes, china statuettes, and other domestic kitch which managed to transcend the definition of kitch She wasn't sure what they were all about, but I was entranced. The pots were both serious and funny; satirical and tender. Each evoked a particular era, and recollected various childhood relatives and neighbors whose worlds comprised objects like these—women who expressed their aesthetics, values and sense of themselves in the world in this undervalued domestic language.

Ann and I discussed the desire to make these objects, an extension of what we termed 'a pie-making urge,' a simple physical impube which somehow encompassed a world of caretaking. We also talked of how this work related to that of Gail Grinnell, whose work adamantly incorporated the language of domesticity, insisting on the importance—even prima"—of traditional women's work. Gail was collaging and painting with wallpaper patterns, dress-making fabric, images of babies, carnival glass in parlor hutches, and lace doilies. Her work related to the on-going pattern of generations, through her involvement with her own children, her aging mother, and her memories of thermometer whom she was nicknamed. I was struck by this conversation, and by subsequent discussion with Gail and Marita Dingus about the ways in which images, techniques, and values passed down to them by their moth ers and grandmothers were making their way into the artwork. It intrigued me to see this vocabulary on the distaff side of culture: a vocabulary which had been trivialized (and which did have its laughable aspects), but, like Ann's work, was also rich, dignified and complex. It was also intriguing that this distaff cultural language was percolating to the surface as more and more women made their way into the mainstream of the art world.

ENDOWMENT: Refittings is a dream show, a group of artists I wanted to see together. 'Endowment' is intended to convey a sense of inheritance, and (subtly different) a sense of that which has been passed down— as well as the obvious pun, which relates to the second half of the title. Some of the artists extend the idea of inheritance to include the history of a culture and a people, while others search for what should have been handed down and was not, or struggle to separate out destructive legacy from whet was strong end healthy. Most of the work here has some kind of internal tension: both an honoring of the legacy of female culture and the women who passed it on, and a desire to "re-fit" that handed down dress, to re-structure the form of the ideal woman. It is this internal tension, that, I believe, creates the humor, ambivalence, and power in this body of work by some of the most interesting artists currently working in Seattle.

— Elizabeth Bryant