She/Her by Erin LaBonte
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I am interested in female identity. My work explores past narratives of female sexuality and motherhood. I am interested in the landscape around me and how I feel connected to it. When I became pregnant and after a trip to Rome my fascination with characters such as Artemis and the She-Wolf grew. Who is she, her, me? How has history, identity, experience and nature defined us, women?
I make work about women, for women. As a female artist in 2023, I question much of the infrastructure on which my world is constructed. My work explores aspects of feminine, and I hope it is empowering and relatable.
My style continues evolving as I explore the relationship between concept and technique in many different media.
I began sewing during the pandemic. Quilting and applique’ techniques seemed a perfect choice for making art that could offer comfort during trying times. I created a female figure as a focal point and named her Nuestra Dama de la Corona (Lady Corona). She was to be a comforting presence, not unlike a deity or favorite doll, to offer respite and hope within scenarios that brought attention to social inequality. Her visual attributes are a crown, gloves, and mask. She can be found with children separated from their families at the U.S. southern border, attending memorials for those who have passed, and comforting grieving people. Gradually other figures took on a similar role in the artwork.
There is a concept popularized by Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s that states “the medium is the message.” An interplay between medium and message helps make my work accessible to a broad range of people. The wall-mounted hangings are constructed in layered cotton fabric in a manner of working much like the way children learn to make pictures with cut-out paper, or, collages. Because quilted comforters are familiar and approachable, the medium is ideal for addressing provocative topics related to social justice and inequality. If there is a message running throughout this work is “seeking comfort in a fraught world.” Art can be a way to process events and experiences that are almost too much to bear.
From the global pandemic, brutality by police, “kids in cages” cruelty at the US southern border, the horror of Russians massacring Ukrainian civilians, massacres at schools and other places that should be safe—bad news is unrelenting. My work offers a visual chronicle in an attempt to wrest something lovely from tragedies.
I am proposing an exhibition of work that addresses the tragedy of gun violence in its many forms. I think of these quilted wall hangings as similar to the spontaneous memorials that communities erect after an untimely death. I first noticed this impulse after the death of Trayvon Martin when scores of people created portraits of the young man, and again after the death of Michael Brown when a tower of flowers and other items was raised in Ferguson, Missouri at the spot where he was killed by police. Similarly, the deaths of Breonna Taylor and then George Floyd brought out widespread commemorations, expanding into a national movement we know as Black Lives Matter. In addition to artwork tributes to Taylor and Floyd, I have completed quilt memorials for Elijah McClain, Aurora, Colorado and Ronald Green, Monroe, Louisiana; and Ahmaud Arbery, Brunswick, Georgia, who died after an encounter with police, or, in the case of Arbery, a retired policeman and his son.
More recently I have begun a series in remembrance of the nineteen children who were killed at Robb Elementary School in of Uvalde, TX. These quilted memorials are individualized portraits but they are also meant to be universal. They celebrate the short lives of the ten-year-old victims and are meant to evoke our collective outrage.
January 12, 2024 - February 23, 2024