This exhibition of work from the group El Stitch y Bitch reminded me of the essentially “relational” aims of feminist work of the 1970s and eighties, specifically Judy Chicago’s Birth Project, a series of embroidered depictions of birth stitched by women, non-artists, from all over the country. While the work on display at Antena in Pilsen looks good, the process out of which the work arises—groups of women stitching, sharing stories, discovering common traditions and discussing the impact on their lives created by the issues of the day—is key.
The meetings of the group El Stitch y Bitch and the relationships among women which develop out of a shared interest in textiles is a crucial but not necessarily visible component of the aesthetic project. Some of the work on display was accompanied by stories: A toilet-tissue cover in the shape of a large lacy crocheted skirt with a doll on top revealed memories of visits to a widowed Abuelo whose rural neighbors probably gave him the decorative crocheted item, or at least that was what Naomi Martinez who reproduced it, speculates about its feminine presence in a man’s house. Adriana Baltazar crocheted a soft sculptural installation of weeds common to city sidewalks along with a street sign (18th Street), commenting that the beautiful, ubiquitous chicory, dandelion and thistle are like local immigrants to Chicago, non-indigenous. Claudia Marchan, whose project was the most technically polished in keeping with its retro spirit, embroidered a garland of roses around a sentimental poem and the portrait of a Mexican movie star from the forties, Pedro Infante. Not all of the work tied the women to their Abuelos and Abuelas: a door crocheted out of “plarn,” plastic bags recycled into crochet materials, with text and photographs worked into the piece, offered a contemporary green and funky take on the theme of home, an old feminist standby. One of the strongest aspects of this small exhibit, aside from color and texture, and the multiple threads informing it (Latino identity, DIY, feminist process) is the display of a diverse group of objects which have been stitched, ranging from soft sculptures, objects which have the attributes of paintings, a coverlet made out of scraps (the only functional object in the gallery) to finely embroidered portraits. (Janina Ciezadlo)
At Antena, 1765 South Laflin, (773)340-3516, through October 22