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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Kathleen Madigan

Nashville,
USA

After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in science, Madigan studied Russian and moved to Moscow to work at the American Embassy. Her life and work have taken her from Central Asia to Africa to Europe to Mexico, and to Argentina, and she has enjoyed experiencing the many languages and spirits of different cultures. Madigan began sewing when, just after college, her mother handed her a small shoebox full of tiny fabric pieces and a needle and thread to take on her travels. Her love for textiles became an art career when a stranger noticed her purse made from the tiny fabric pieces, and commissioned three pieces of art for a public building in Nashville. Madigan has two children and is establishing a studio in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Feminist Artist Statement

Utilizing fabric, needle-and-thread, and “pieces of the past,” Kathleen Madigan’s works spring from deep tradition even as they fly in the face of deeply ingrained expectations. Under Madigan’s artistic hand, long-suppressed, stitched-in emotions emerge like ghosts, as handed-down handicraft collides head-on with unfettered bursts of color, shape, object, and inspiration. Her mixed media “comforters” examine a woman’s work, a woman’s “place,” and the value society places on women themselves, their inner lives, dreams, and journeys.

Her creative journey has been inspired and informed by women; women whose work has been the only available – the only permissible – form of expression. Woven within age-old themes is the ominous thread of a cultural conspiracy of silence that attempts to perpetrate a “pretty picture” of who we are, what we have endured, and even what we long for.

Everyday things – kitchen utensils, hubcaps, bottle caps, clothing, scissors – lend texture, weight and immediacy to Madigan’s multilayered works. Unflinching, unexpected, unfolding layer by layer, they are jagged shards, scattered fragments, forgotten moments, precious memories…tales from inside.

<p>Let Me Show You The Door</p>

Let Me Show You The Door

Let Me Show You The Door is a response to domestic abuse. A thick black and white door hangs 6” in front of rich red sewn fabric, casting shadows. The door is not solid, but carved and full of holes, and covered in symbols, Monopoly money, and graffiti spelling out phrases that an abusive man might say to his victim, including, “you’ll never survive without me,” “why don’t you think about me for once,” “you’ll be sorry,” “I promise I’ll change,” and others. A light switch reading ‘Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde: Flip Switch Here,’ a sealed envelope containing contrary opinions, and crushed wedding bells adorn the door.

Let Me Show You The Door

Let Me Show You The Door is a response to domestic abuse. A thick black and white door hangs 6” in front of rich red sewn fabric, casting shadows. The door is not solid, but carved and full of holes, and covered in symbols, Monopoly money, and graffiti spelling out phrases that an abusive man might say to his victim, including, “you’ll never survive without me,” “why don’t you think about me for once,” “you’ll be sorry,” “I promise I’ll change,” and others. A light switch reading ‘Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde: Flip Switch Here,’ a sealed envelope containing contrary opinions, and crushed wedding bells adorn the door.

The Wife

The Wife, inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem of the same name, shares the poem’s first line, written in thread across the top,

‘She Rose To His Requirement

and Became

Blank Canvas.’

She is “plugged into” her husband’s needs, her face a mixer, looking outward to see what is required. Her body is the dress and she is thoroughly defined by her role and isolated by the immensity of it. The scene is depicted on the back of a wedding quilt, showing the “underbelly” of a marriage.

This piece is ceiling-mounted so the viewer can walk around the scene, and the figure is normally exhibited partially rolled-up into the wedding quilt.

A Woman’s Work

Inspired by a lament from Aunt Jane in Aunt Jane of Kentucky by Eliza Calvert Hall (1907) that the discouraging thing about a woman’s work is that it “perishes with the usin,’” this piece is an ode to the unsung work of a mother: the driving, the laundry, the cooking, cleaning, and fixing. Sewn on dyed cotton bought in Ghana, Africa.

Crazymaking

Written in thread across the top of the work, it reads in increasingly illegible handwriting:

‘But Momma he only drinks five beers now’

The flowers, fashioned from beer bottle caps, are growing upside down into the earth.

Ankh

A spiritual metaphor, this hieroglyph which reads “eternal life” is created using everyday objects.

Objectify Me!

A comment on the role women play in perpetuating their own stereotypes, this piece depicts women who are made of sugar bags, lingerie, and aprons with dancing apron strings.

Cover Up

Written lightly in thread across the left side of the bed are three incest stories. The king of the bed is made up of sharp points, plumbing, and springs. Children’s clothes and a teddy bear dangle off the end of the bedspread.

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Text, images, audio, and/or video in the Feminist Art Base are copyrighted by the contributing artists unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.