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Words of Wisdom, 2003

Series of 4 wall texts from 4 books, letters cut from plastic Mexican tablecloths

Dimensions variable

Exhibition: Ex-Teresa Arte Alternativo, Mexico City, and DNA Gallery, London, Canada

                                                                                         

Texts read:

1. A lovely girl, no trouble at all. (from: Janet Frame. An Autobiography. New Zealand, c. 1955.) 62” x 16” (two lines of text)

2. You’re busy? Of course you are! But not too busy for beauty. (from: Kate Aitken. Lovely You. Toronto: Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 1951.) 84” x 32” (three lines of text)

3. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so. (from: Charlotte Perkins Gilman. “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1891). Black Water 2, Alberto Manguel, ed. Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys Ltd., 1990.) 73” x 20” (two lines of text)

4. In a house where everything is delicate, the refinement of manners will be acquired. (from: Oscar Wilde. “Decoración doméstica” (1882). Conferencia a los estudiantes de arte y Otros ensayos. Mexico: UNAM, 1986.) 73” x 31” (three lines of text)

 

Colourful floral plastic oilcloths typically cover tables in market food stalls, popular cantinas, fondas (small family luncheon places), and road-side food stands. It is sold by the meter in copious floral designs of blinding colours. The patterns reference the female domain and its connection to home and fashion, and these in turn reveal social status, class, and good taste. The chosen texts are from writers Janet Frame  and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, both encountering challenges as women writers in their time, as well as Oscar Wilde writing on good taste and Kate Aitken on being a good housewife in the fifties—in short, a comment on the power of the word to create scripts for all to live by. The fonts for the phrases were chosen for their curving, rounded lines, alluding to femininity and good penmanship. From afar we appreciate the beautiful script, obscure phrases and enchanting flowers, but upon closer look we notice the phrases are simply cut from plastic oilcloth, a humble material used in everyday life.