Making Something from Modernism

decorating dissidence collage

Virginia Woolf talks about the loose, drifting material of life, describing how she would like to see it sorted and coalesced into a mold transparent enough to reflect the light of our life and yet aloof as a work of art. She makes us think of the paper lace, quills beads, scraps of cloth, photographs, birthday cards, valentines and clippings, all of which inspired the visual imaginations of the women we write about.

Taking inspiration from Miriam Schapiro’s ‘Femmage’ (1977-78) our handmade postcard explores the dialogues between decorative craft and feminist practices. We used collage to reference both avant-garde techniques and traditional scrapbooking. At the centre, we placed Faith Ringgold’s ‘Dancing at the Louvre’ (1991), which offers a striking example of the en dehors garde in practice – as Ringgold directly reworks and complicates the legacy of modernist making. The postcard also looks back to May Morris and Mary Haweis to make links between what might be considered ‘traditional feminine crafts’ with the experimental works of Anni Albers, Hannah Hoch and Sophie Tauber. We suggest a new feminist genealogy connecting these decorative artists. The gaps in the collage around the edge are an invitation to be filled by this continuing critical examination of the en dehors garde.

This is something we are further exploring in our project ‘Decorating Dissidence’, a series of workshops, exhibitions and lectures aimed at exploring the enduring importance of female-identifying contributions to the arts as a disruption or protest. We are particularly interested in feminine-coded decorative arts and craft practices, which have been marginalised in the history of C20th art. There’s more information about how to get involved & upcoming events here: