Femineering (2015–2016)


Femineering - New (and Years Ahead!)



INSTALLATION VIEWS, Femineering - NEW (and Years Ahead!), Gordon SnelGrove Gallery, Saskatoon, SK, 2015.PHOTOGRAPHY BY Emily Kohlert.

  • Kelvinator Refrigerator, bed sheet, ruffle, LED light, ~3x5'

INSTALLATION VIEWS, Immersive Space, AKA Artist-Run Centre, Saskatoon, SK, 2016.

  • Kelvinator Refrigerator and paraffin wax , dimensions variable


Artist Statement:

Femineering - NEW (and Years Ahead!)

The 1950s: a golden era for women and the feminine arts! Revisit the the time of the domestic ideal, when homemakers in perms and pumps ruled the kitchen! Marvel at the innovations of Jello, Velveeta, Spam, Betty Crocker, Campbell’s Soup, margarine, mayonnaise, frozen dinners, marshmallows! Be amazed by homes transformed by refrigerators, Hoovers, electric appliances, toilet paper, cellophane wrap, Tupperware, and Formica countertops! These labour saving foods and devices gave us freedom to do what we do best: femineer! 

In the early 1950s the International Harvester company published an advertisement for “decorator refrigerators” with the tag line: “They’re femineered! ... and YEARS AHEAD!” The ads featured joyful, pretty, white, middle-class, homemakers demonstrating the “revolutionary new idea” of wrapping their refrigerators in fabrics colour coordinated to their kitchens.

Following WWII, there was a calculated effort to return women back to the home in order to create jobs for veterans. An obvious way to promote domesticity was through the developing field of mass media advertising. These propaganda images while quite absurd to the contemporary viewer, with “happy housewives” exclaiming gleefully over everything from new bed sheets to canned meat, suggested a utopian domesticity, a kind of glamour, and the look of the “perfect wife, mother, and idyllic modern woman.”

Sixty years on, it is intriguing that aspects of post WWII femininity continue to appeal. In current media and fashion we see people emulating the feminine look of the 1950s. Synched waists, flared skirts, stockings, pearls, stiletto heels, brightly painted lips and nails, and penciled eyebrows emulate a retro pinnacle look of femininity. 

Why does this image continue to appeal to us when the facade of the “femineer” has been countered by the struggles for equality in reproductive rights, employment opportunities, domestic property rights, freedom from violence? Perhaps to new generations the “dream” is still comforting even though we know it is unattainable? Perhaps we are nostalgic for our mothers, grandmothers, or childhoods? Has the myth surpassed the reality or is there potential irony in this stylistic revival or a savvy political attitude that people are embracing through adapting this role playing? 

Using a morphing of time and place I hope to allow my viewer to recognize the absurdity  of specific stereotypes, cultural trends, the pressure of propaganda and its contradictions, in a way that translates to our own generation and time. The day will come when our own time period will be the object of reflection. How will future generations interpret us? How would we like to be perceived and remembered?

-Aralia Maxwell (April, 2015)