As part of the Foundation Degree each student must present a piece of work to be critiqued by the other group members and staff.
The viewers were seated in rows , much like a theatre , facing the artwork .Some of the group decided to view the work up close to get a better idea of what the work comprised.
The artwork was presented in the upstairs studio of the Gloucester building City College , Brighton . Attached to white boarding it consisted of two hand-sewn breasts made of cloth and a hand drawn uterus.These were positioned next to each other horizontally and beneath both a hand-written title read;
“LIKE a 24hrs SHOP READY TO SERVE”.
Hanging from each breast was a large drop of milk – again handmade from cloth and in the centre of the uterus was a pink plastic clothes peg.
The work was considered to be making a statement concerning the role of a woman as mother.
It addresses the feelings experienced whilst nurturing and caring for a baby – a kind of protest perhaps or a complaint.Yet the presentation of the work is very human and humorous which suggests the inconvenience is acknowledged with a good deal of affection.Each component is made by the artist’s own hand, suggesting a kind of domesticity.The artist can be imagined sitting at home hand crafting each item – hand sewing and interacting with the work i.e.crafting a pair of breasts – making the process very much what the work is.
The positioning of the uterus unusually at the same height as the breasts – makes the work more interesting as a display.It was suggested that the three components to the work would work better if displayed as separate pieces.The title could be seen as a kind of shop counter positioned at waist height accordingly.
The peg is suggestive of the domestic chores women typically do for years – placed here at eye level it echoes the height of a peg attached to a clothes line . Being separate from the breasts suggests another location – perhaps outside where the laundry is usually hung to dry. The peg is closed meaning it definitely looks like a peg – and its position in the centre of the uterus suggests perhaps it is not open for any other kind of activity – i.e.that of a sexual nature. The pencil outline of the uterus again is humorous and not as literal as a medical illustration would be. The looseness and spontaneity of the drawing is more organic and softens the tone of the work.
At one point during the crit it was suggested that the uterus be erased and drawn again in a looser fashion.The strength of the work lies largely in its spontaneity and it was suggested that Mercedes should try to work fast in order to capture a sense of freedom which is an important characteristic of her work.The tendancy to over- analyse this work is a danger – the simplicity of the work adds to its success even though in this case it is almost too simple .The unevenness of the line beneath the hand written title – the irregular use of both upper and lower case lettering – the slightly incorrect use of English all add towards making the work really powerful through its simplicity.
In her studies for the work , Mercedes considered the notion of viewing the world through her vagina. This provoked further discussion of women’s art versus the notion of art critique designed by men.The idea of there being an alternative form of representation by women rests on there being a freedom from any restraints resulting from the likes of modernism or conceptual art – which are gendered – i.e. they look at art from a male point of view.
Although the subject matter could be regarded as rather bleak and somewhat self indulgent – the work itself does not come across as such.It is simply making something which for various reasons is difficult , a little more bearable through humour and a clever use of oblique referencing.The subject could easily be understood as a feminist issue yet this work is based on her own experience – she is touching on issues which are simply human and as such universal to all women – feminist or not.