SUPERWOMEN: Ladies: Can you cook dinner, console a friend, and balance your checkbook at the same time? Have you been known to read a map, send a text message, and snack—all while driving your car? How about those who have completely abandoned the dream of ever completing the to-do list?
Welcome to modern womanhood. Fitting it all in isn’t easy, but then, was it ever? In Women’s Work, on view this month at The Frameworks/Caruso-Woods Gallery (813 Anacapa St.), assemblage artist Anne Luther takes a good look at the expectations and stereotypes that have followed the fairer sex through the 20th century and into the 21st.
In 28 new pieces, Luther uses sewing scraps and other remnants of domestic craft to weave a subtle commentary on women’s roles, now and then. Lace and rhinestones, cheesecloth and diaper pins decorate curio boxes and shrines, canvases and paperweights. The passage of time is a recurring theme: Clock faces and calendars crop up in unexpected places, providing a backdrop to vintage Vogue Magazine cutouts, which present women as icons of professionalism, beauty, and composure.
In Luther’s Mad Woman series, these visions of loveliness answer telephones in tailored suits and white gloves, and sit cross-legged at their desks, turning the pages of their books with perfectly manicured nails. The subtext is clear: Times have changed, but we still expect women to balance their careers with their domestic chores, and to stay slim and well heeled while they’re at it.
We get works with titles and themes that reduce women to single-function organisms: “The Baby Maker,” “The Lover,” “The Homemaker,” “The Whore.” There’s a sense of quiet resentment here, and also respect for the real women, past and present, whose busy lives these works of art evoke. In “Too Many To-Dos,” Luther gives real women a chance to tell their own stories. Beneath a wire dress form sits a basket of paper tags and a bunch of colored pencils. A sign invites “working women” to write down their to-do lists and tie them on. In this way, the female bust has been dressed in layers of paper scales, each with its own message. “Finish the quilt, make a mammogram appt., get the oil changed, meditate,” reads one. “Call mom, see full moon,” says another.
In the gallery’s front window hangs another poetic work, “Not Enough Hours,” in which a black cutout figure wearing a dress and holding a rolling pin stands in for the second and minute hands of a giant clock. The figure’s body is covered in white writing, and the instructions written there could have been lifted from the journal of almost any woman. “Cook, clean, read, think,” the writing says. “Email, garden, budget, sleep, make love, make art, recycle, play, hug, wash out the mug, eat, don’t eat, stress less.”
Much has changed in the last century, yet Luther’s show blurs the line between woman as she was conceived in the early 1900s—homemaker, child minder, secretary, seamstress, kitchen goddess, fashion icon—and woman as she is now: soccer mom, CEO, yogi, attorney, business owner, wife, mother, lover, and multitasking superwoman. Luther honors them all.
FAST TIMES, SLOW ART: In case you didn’t notice it last time you were on the hunt for faucet fixtures or bulk ketchup, that big-box mall known as the Marketplace is home to more than Best Buy, Costco, and Home Depot. Tucked against the mountain side of the complex is the Goodland Gallery (7044 Market Place Dr.), specializing in handcrafted products by regional artists. It’s like the YES Store all year long, and a browse through the gallery is a welcome change of pace from the strip-mall experience. Check out their bimonthly Saturday art show that extends out the doors, where you can chat with the creators of everything from dichroic glass pendants to paper art, pounded bronze earrings to plush dolls to oil paintings of beachscapes close to home. To learn more about the gallery, visit thegoodlandgallery.tripod.com.