Impressions from Asia
Balancing tradition and innovation, I use needlework to infuse renewed power to craft traditions often dismissed as feminine. There is the presence of the maker in the shapes of thousands of stitches, handwrought forms, and as in her collaboratives, the orchestrated actions of many. My work investigates human interaction, expression and gender – particularly the forces that have historically influenced women's place in society. Influenced by travel, I draw from historical and cultural experiences that extend from my neighborhood to time spent in the Far East.
Impressions from a residency in Shenzhen China, where citizens are experiencing radical social changes, resulted in works about the confusing contradictions of identity and place. In my China studio, I discovered pages from propaganda magazines printed during the Cultural Revolution, when practicing art was cause for imprisonment. I embroidered these pages using a traditional pine needle stitch she observed in the marketplace, and threads scavenged from the refuse of a nearby factory. In each the faces are masked, symbolizing the disconnect felt by contemporary Chinese, many of whom are transplanted from faraway provinces and feeling out their culture within a rapidly changing consumer society.
These concepts of alienation combined with my experiences of feeling other were what spawned the Beasts. The stuffed beings began as the ultimate transitional object - a cuddly toy - before being reconstructed into a decadent, headless enigma who expresses covert parts of the human psychology. Similarly, the series Nature of the Beast is comprised of promotional dogs distributed by Victoria Secret and embellished with embroidery, a feminine act, embodying vulnerabilities about image, identity, gender, ethnicity and status.
The exhibit Unidentified Woman engages with the collections at Historic Northampton and the forces that have shaped women’s identities since the 18th century. Struck by the poignant anonymity of the women in the archives, Jodi decided to respond to a 19th century Poke bonnet. Headwear has long played a role in indicating the class, status and occupation of the wearer – enforcing conformity and erasing individuality. Jodi’s headwear sculptures become a vehicle for a subversive coded language addressing the play between visibility and invisibility and stitching together past and present identity politics where expression replaces suppression and sewing equals activism.
While in Thailand, I shared a mud house with many of the native species. One in particular, a small black scorpion, haunted the drain of the bathroom sink and occupied my every thought. It became a curiosity how a being so small could wield so much power. In response, I created an 18-inch black lace scorpion with materials found at local markets, once she got home, the diminutive size of the object lacked the impact of my experience, prompting a larger-than-life second version and expanding the conversation beyond the personal. Stinger’s lacy exoskeleton is crafted from found doilies that suggest a history of needlework and domesticity that is left ambiguous. Dyed black and collaged into a mosaic of patterns, they now form the permeable body of a creature feared for it venomous sting and quick shift from repose to attack.
For more information about Jodi and her work visit http://jodi-colella-39mb.squarespace.com.