Let Your Life Be a Counter-Friction

Egypt, WTO, and the Boeing Five: Ellen Lesperance's Memorials and Blueprints


Ellen Lesperance's show reminds me, at least in its thematic/political aims, of the art of Mimi Smith and Harmony Hammond, (the latter having depicted the 'woven' aesthetic somewhat seen in Lesperance's 'Let Nawal el Saadwi...'). The juxtaposition of her own crafted work and articles of clothing previously made/worn is representative of many contemporary approaches involving found objects and those of organic creation (in tackling the endless subjectivity of the question: what is art?) Lesperance's show consists of three sweaters that are emblematic of feminism-in-action and an arduously-crafted painting that reveals the drawn-out process of feminist reform. Although the work is technically intriguing and is almost magnetic in its deceiving appearance from afar, I failed to have a deep connection with the works (which I say with a tinge of sadness, being a feminist!)...The fact that Lesperance presents her art in a pleasing, contemporary aesthetic, she is able to assimilate in the art world and project messages of feminist action (while also doing so in her own life, outside of art).

...to have a legitimate opinion and analysis of her work, I would have view this in person.
Although I am usually only drawn to paintings, I find myself inexplicably drawn to the pieces in this show. (Well, at least as far as I can tell from the article.) Maybe it is the act of recreating history in such a physical sense that I find intriguing. A painting of the same subject would not speak to me in the same way. Or maybe it's the feminism that is so tightly woven into the pieces without being too pushy. More than anything I think that it is the process that speaks to me. The detailed recreation of the sweaters and the patterns from partial photos is fascinating. The "feminine" art of knitting and sewing being used in these feminist pieces is also interesting. This is a show I would love to see!
These paintings are just straight up BEAUTIFUL in person. An article cannot do them justice (the Nawal painting, too, is the most plain of the entire bunch).
The connection between the artist & what she's focusing her artwork around is a bit mysterious. It's difficult to determine the strength of the correlation is. Whether or not that legitimizes the art or not I'm not sure.

Within fashion now details in pieces have become very important, much like the details in the works, both the sweaters and paintings. She's connecting her work back to feminine history, although again it's difficult to find the correlation between the women, if there even is one other than their womanhood. The folds of the sweaters & the paintings mirror each other. Their lines are very similar, as are their attention to the small details. I think this is the reason I have a desire for more details about the correlation between the artist & the women of history, because the two mediums share so many details in common.
I find the act of knitting to be of extreme importance in Lesperance's work. The physical act of making a sweater is distinctly feminine insofar as it is predominantly a female occupation. As a result, her work becomes distinctly feminine as well. Not only is the content of her work "feminist" but so too is the physical quality of her art. Personally, the medium speaks more to her feminist agenda than does her historical narrative.
I really appreciate Ellen Lesperance's choice of medium. The unconventional use of existing clothing and the creation of her own paintings allows for the viewer to experience a more intimate connection with individual feminist activists. The sweaters are not reminiscent of a period of fashion but serve as markers for feminine history. Ellen Lesperance's work reminds me of Andrea Zittel's wardrobe statements. Both artists use clothing to serve as representatives of non-conformity to the standards for women implicated by society.
Feminism is really known to be active and persistent in the 20th century, however, the 21st century still holds a belief in a traditional family and further, the traditional role of the woman in that family. The artist draws attention to Boeing, which has a history/reputation for pay discrimination. The art we are looking at is fabricated in mediums that represent traditional roles and fabrications done by women, like knitting, sewing, and folding. When Jen Graves said a sweater was "like a chest plate of armor" yet soft, it transforms women, known as fragile, feminine, and soft, into heroes and warriors of their time. Having actual, tangible clothes on a table, acting like relics of martyrs, gives us an undeniable proof of their existence, and intensifying an emotional response and ability to empathize.
There are many things I appreciate about this show. Utilizing classically feminine crafts-knitting and pattern-making, she is promoting the ideologies of the 2nd wave of feminism. It must be the way this article was written but I slowed down to read it just like the required patience to knit a sweater or construct a pattern and the patience needed by the women she references. Lesperance's methods and choice of women she focused on is oddly appropriate because they each chose their tactics and goals with great intention.

A sweater that takes patience and focus is incredibly strong, but it is cherished for its softness and comfort. this is the wonderful versatility of women especially the women highlighted in Lesperance's work