Exhibitions: Kiki Smith: Sojourn

Prudence Punderson: The First, Second, and Last Scene of Mortality

Prudence Punderson’s remarkable silk embroidery offers a unique perspective on women’s lives during the Federal period. It depicts a well-appointed parlor in which three stages of a woman’s life—birth, adulthood, and death—take place, from right to left. The image is rare in that its central vignette shows a woman engaged in an artistic pursuit rather than a scene of marriage or motherhood. Also rare for the period is the portrayal of an enslaved female of African descent as an integral part of the scene. With its pronounced element of autobiography and sophisticated use of symbolic imagery, Punderson’s iconic embroidery is an inspirational narrative, which provided the model for Kiki Smith’s installation project Sojourn.