While living in Cairo in 1988, Ghada Amer had an artistic breakthrough when she stumbled across a fashion magazine titled, Venus. The artist tells me that this magazine was a “sort of Vogue for the veiled woman,” which featured images of Western models wearing veils and modestly fashionable outfits that were photo-montaged onto their figures. The back of the publication also featured sewing patterns for readers to create their own versions of the fashions seen in the photos. Amer’s immediate response was a series of spiral notebooks with miniaturized versions of these patterns, and soon after larger works emerged, including the title piece for this exhibition, “Love Has No End,” (1990), and “Untitled,” (1990), which features a tracing paper cutout of a miniskirt pattern mounted to a rectangle of plywood.
This piece leads into an area of Amer’s work where she begins to explore connections between presumed “feminine” techniques or craft, and “masculine” or formalized constructions. The patterning of baby clothes, and dresses influences works such as “L’Ange (The Angel),” (1991), and “Untitled,” (1991), while the subject of “woman’s work” and the figure of the “bored housewife” infiltrates “La femme qui repasse (The Woman Who Irons),” (1996), as Amer begins to reframe the narratives of feminine domesticity. In the last piece from this section, “Test Piece for Conseils de beauté de mois d’août: Votre corps, vos cheveux, vos ongles et votre peau (Beauty Tips for the Month of August: Your Body, Your Hair, Your Nails, and Your Skin),” (1993), the models of feminine behavior and improbable ideals of beauty that are championed by magazines such as Elle and Vogue are rendered powerless in the folds of four handkerchiefs delicately embroidered with the French text about grooming and proper etiquette.
Check out these works and more in Ghada Amer: Love Has No End at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center gallery through October 19th.