Monday, April 4, 2011

pink; initiator

Lin Tianmiao is a Chinese born artist who studied in the U.S.A during the early 1980's, where she soon become a successful textile designer. Her career as an artist did not begin until she moved back to China in 1994 with her artist husband where they opened up their hutong studio to show their works to the public. She was quickly placed into the group of female Chinese artists making nuxing yishu 'female art'.

Most of you know I have a connection to China, especially Beijing where I undertook an artist in residence program in 2008. I do have a love/hate relationship with Beijing and the Chinese art world as a result, but I wont go into that here. What I will say is that one thing I did not like was their obsession with fiberglass and even though Initiator is made of fiberglass and silk, it does have something else to offer that is more than just being a cheesy fiberglass sculpture.
Initiator references both Western and Eastern cultures of myths and traditional gender stereotypes. The woman and the frog are bound in decorative silk fabric, which is a common theme of Lin's practice. China’s female tradition of cloth production and embroidery are evident here as with references to her cultural heritage of foot binding for 'beauty' which actually disabled women from walking. Here the woman is bound but so is the frog, suggesting both sexes are bound by traditional roles. 

One cannot help but also notice Western fairytale references in this work. Rupunzel and The Frog Prince are just two that come to mind. Both stories have a male character that eventually saves the female character. A form of binding exists within these fairytales for little girls growing up in Western cultures (and may I suggest little boys too) as they are taught through these stories how they are to take on their role as 'women' within the society they are growing into. To always look pretty, to always be vulnerable and to always expect to be saved.
The paragraph below is taken directly from Lin Tianmiao's website:

"There are pink arcs on the background wall, which can be interpreted as commas---a non-stop process, or as swimming sperms. A girl, wrapped in white silk cloth with decorative patterns, stands with her hands half open, in a somewhat hesitative posture. Beside the girl there is a frog, also wrapped in white silk cloth with decorative patterns, and whose hands turn out to be coarsely veined male human hands, drawing the numerous white silk threads that drape from the girl’s body."

This work, with its comically large pink representation of 'swimming sperm' is beautifully constructed in the Eastern tradition of silk crafts and successfully represents the gender differences that exists between Eastern and Western traditions. Lin Tianmiao's work definitely draws inspiration from both cultures, creating a tactile, sensual and delicately beautiful installation experience for the viewer to ponder.

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