Troublesome Nature // Women's Work: Laundry and Dreams

Women's Work: Laundry and Dreams

PAINTING
INSTALLATION

Here in Room 2 I'm showing paintings under the name Women's Work: Laundry and Dreams

 

Some of the pieces are made on paper using gouache and water colour, while other paintings are done on re-used bedding.

 

Central for this series of work was the installation of several 'pillow case paintings' at Edinburgh College of Art as part of the group exhibition HOUSEHOLD in February 2020.   

This One is Pink

Pillow Case Painting of Cat no.4
Acrylics on pillow case, 2020

 
...

There are daily routines like washing clothes, brushing teeth or drying hair. We don't notice them, so our minds tend to wander. Where do our thoughts go? To a place where we dare do the profane? Profane is the unclean and the sacrilegious. It's the opposite of white clean linen. In dreams we often find ourselves in situations where the mundane suddenly becomes profane. And in a way, every night we do something profane just by sleeping in our bedding and dream our dreams on the pillows. These dreams with their desire and anxiety spill onto the fabric like big red plasters of paint; impossible to remove or wash away.  

 

In this series of paintings and drawings I examine the journey that takes place in our minds when we dream and day-dream, and also the bedding we sleep on as a material and subsequently the act of doing laundry. We are all travelers in our heads, which is also a way to resist the world around us or discover feelings, needs or other aspects of ourselves. Dreams and their monsters are this bastion that yet refuses to be controlled.

 

 

Historically, there is perhaps nothing so frightening than a woman daydreaming. 

    

Laundry Day no. 2
Gouache on paper, 2020

I Don't Feel Anything
Gouache on paper, 2020

Nettles
Gouache on paper, 2020

 
Pillow Case Paintings
 

Installation for HOUSEHOLD
 Sculpture Court, Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland.

February 2020 

In our grandmothers generation and before them, it was almost impossible to imagine a man doing laundry. It was women's work. And to this day in many situations it still is.
 
But what if many of the household chores often attributed to women were nothing more than a ploy to keep women busy historically? To keep them away from having time to ponder. What if they went around with all that free time? What if they daydreamed or fantasied? Maybe they would one day simply take off, flying on a goat through the sky to meet up with fellow women and do things, that were not productive or pleasing to anyone else but themselves.
 
What kind of monstrosities exists in this real of dreaming? 
What if the women got nasty impulses to make laundry dirty on purpose? What if there was no control whatsoever with their actions?
 
For the group exhibition HOUSEHOLD at Edinburgh College of Art I contributed with an installation piece consisting of five pillow cases hung on a washing line. I used the pillow cases as blank canvases for one painting of a long cat and four paintings of landscapes. In two of them women fly on objects and animals and in the other two the landscapes are visited by a monstrous creatures. The paintings were hung on a washing line together with the cat in the center. 
 

INSTALLATION VIEW

Pillow Case Paintings
Group exhibition HOUSEHOLD at Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland, 2020t

 
As part of this project I collected bedding across Edinburgh in Scotland from people, who were happy to get rid of it. Some is torn and old. Some still has tags from IKEA or other brands.
Besides my pillow case paintings I've done other work using old fabric like bed sheets or worn down trousers. When using these materials I believe they have been 'imprinted' with the life and thoughts surrounding them. So, for the pillow cases, they must contain some kind of residue of dreams in the fabric itself, making the painting on top of the fabric somewhat a manifestation of what 'already is'.
 

By the Forest Edge

Pillow Case Painting no. 4

Acrylics on pillow case, 2020

 
In many cultures there is this story, that certain creatures visits us as we travel in our dreams. They help us find the insight or the place, we are looking for. In the pre-Christian Scandinavian practice known as Seid, such animals or creatures where perhaps called 'følgere' (followers). It is not that they follow anyone, but rather that they accompany the dreamer in her search, which for a practitioner of Seid would be in an ecstatic dream trance between worlds.  
It is perhaps not so different from the animal familiar, which also aids their human relation. A symbiosis, where the animal or creature is part of the human and yet extent. It also brings to mind the beasts witches presumable would ride on, when they flew away to Sabbaths. They animals would seem to know the way already, as the witch would sometimes herself be in a dreamlike state. 
The pink cat of the installation piece above is a take on some of these narratives, but I've also done other series of dream creatures on pillow cases. Some of them were of 'night fiends' and relates to the uncontrollable state of dreams, as with the painting done on a brown pillow case shown below. 
  

This One Has Stripes

Pillow Case Painting of Cat no.1
Acrylics on pillow case, 2020

A note from class, Edinburgh 2020

I asked a professor in medieval history at a talk on witches why women were more accused of witchcraft than men.
 
To my surprise he didn't just tell me that no conclusive answer exist, but that in his view people on top of society always fear that the people at the bottom realizes they have the means to disrupt the power. So the people on top invent scary versions of the 'other' and are fearful of what kind of trouble they make when nobody looks. Especially scary is the secret and hidden revenges like curses and spells which are hard to guard against, so drastic actions where needed to deal with the threat of what women schemes to do in the dark. 
I don't know if he is right or wrong, but his answer is good. Maybe that is also why women's dreams became this arena of controversy and fights, where scholars of the time would spend a great deal of time asking women to give detailed accounts of what happened, since nobody could control where women went in their dreams, who they meet with and what they would do.

 © 2023 by Amanda Schwarzfeldt

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