Artist Statement –Victoria Wilkins
My work started by looking at women in the home, traditional feminine crafts, quilts, fabric that were produced by women but often overlooked to be seen as culturally significant works of art. I started by reading how retrospectively it was found that many quilts told a story, by fabric choices or pattern, and are now beginning to be looked at as historically valuable pieces, although little is often known of the maker apart from a name. I explored this by constructing an applique quilt with it in my mind that it was to give to my daughter. The applique I chose to use that would represent her was cupcakes, and horse fabric along with some other folk motifs. This quilt represents her interests, such as horse riding, the time, with cupcakes being very luxurious in 2013 and very on trend for the time. The fabric was all taken from my “stash” which is all fabric that I have felt a connection to or just liked and have collected.
This led me back to working in a more direct autobiographical way using memory and traces of memory within my work. I looked at the work of Mary Kelly and considered that it is a socially valuable piece of work, documenting the upbringing and socialisation of her child over a number of years. I though however, in the post feminist era consider that we have come to have many alternatives for the original idea of family and parenting and so wanted to document the life of my child. Her father is bringing her up alone, not only in a single parent environment but by a man with her being a young girl. What effect does having these different strata of family combinations have on the child’s socialisation, education and life? I have embroidered onto beautiful lace hankies various quotes from my daughter that represent some of the issues we have had surrounding this situation. Again making them very feminine and using feminine techniques such as hand embroidery to re – create memories.
Then we come to think about the idea of pregnancy and child birth. When a woman sees her child for the first time after birth the enormity of this being a relationship forever and the natural nurturing instinct’s even breast feeding which cannot be replicated by anyone other than the mother, or someone of female gender. A woman can never imagine being separated from her child once the child is born. When actually the only time she can never be separated from her child is when the child is un born and in the womb. The child is born into society, rules, and their reality begins to be constructed firstly by the parents and family, then by socialisation in school. My child and myself have been separated by society that sees me as unfit to bring her up because I suffer a named illness. That is wrong and things should have been put in place to allow me to have a relationship with my child, a mother, and daughter relationship. I am satisfied however that I successfully brought her up for five years and that all her crucial learning and personality forming was done before she was the age of three so now just like everyone else she will just have to get on with it and it shouldn’t be a problem that will affect her too badly.
It has however affected me. The loss of my role in society, the loss of my friend, the loss of any responsibility and having my child taken by societies rules and being defenceless to do anything because I have been labelled. So I started working on sculptures that represent this loss. The amazing pregnancy full of hope for the future and the happiness of having and loving unconditionally a child of my own. The sculptures again use the feminine aesthetic of fabric, weaving, knots fairy tale books and china dolls that my grandma made for me when I was a child. The china dolls fully clothed in the womb serve to represent that even before the child is born we are making plans to clothe them and socialise them into society. I looked at the work of Louise Borgois when creating these sculptures and the idea of trauma. The work has all developed through a process of recovering from trauma with the making being the cathartic process and the end product a physical representation of this. They deal with the idea of the pregnancy with the china dolls representing the baby in the womb juxtaposed by wire mesh almost like a prison but with weaved fabrics, lace and knots.
I then came to the idea of the socially constructed reality, gender, and identity as these are all themes running through my work. I looked at the work of Lynn Hershman with her experimental work into constructing an identity. This made me consider my many roles and identities in every day life. Mother, daughter, sister, aunt which all stem from the ideas around family. We then have secondary learning, which is by way of proverbs, perhaps how ones mother told them off as a child which all forms how we behave and serves to create social order and functioning.
I have continued to look at the work of Tracey Emin with her confessional text quilts and I started making more direct work on canvases using text about the way I have been told off by mother, such as the canvas, “vickytoriaworld, stop day dreaming!” Using contemporary popular culture as a means of communication such as my internet pseudo name but with the use of text a more direct approach to getting these issues across to a wider audience. I then developed this into proverbs, which I have created, or I may have absorbed them at some point in my life through my secondary learning.
Through my work I have made the private public and hope it serves to be a socially important tool to educate about some of these issues regarding gender, family, identity and a persons role in society. The trauma of the loss of these staple ingredients that hold the fabric of our society together is put forward in a feminine way, using traditionally feminine techniques and materials.