Art Exhibition – BertholArthouse
Padiham, 103, Burnley Road, BB12 8BL
On the 9th June, 2016 I was invited to a preview of a pop up art exhibition (www.bertholarthouse.co.uk) in Padiham. I had the opportunity to talk to the exhibiting artists and I was struck by the pulled wool creations of Catherine Kaufman. She took me around her exhibits and told me about the creative process. Of the six pieces on display, each could take 6 months, 8 months or longer. The act of creation is experimental and the effect is achieved by the application of a single wool plucking pin. A good deal of Catherine’s technical explanations didn’t make it into my notepad but the ideas she framed require reciprocation. These are mine:
A water sprite that can become mortal.
Method: marry a human.
Catch: unfaithful husband means she has to go back to the sea.
The Little Mermaid, one of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales, gives a telling of this story. His, and later versions, include an element of moralising.
In classical times the gorgons were held to be the three daughters of Echidna and Typhon. Echidna was a lamia and Typhon was a big bad giant; they were held to be the parents of all monsters. Given that a lamia is a woman from the waist up with a snake for the rest, the mechanics of pro-creation seem a puzzle. In a more contemporary setting, that doesn’t stop the lamia giving Rael, the protagonist of Genesis’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a good time.
Hypatia lived in late antiquity Alexandria which was a jewel in the crown of the Classical Greek speaking world. It was a beacon of civilisation marrying science, learning and administration and was held to have housed as many as million souls. By Hypatia’s time it was past its best, the library had been burned down several times – Caesar’s troops accidentally did this in 48BC, many civic buildings were destroyed by the Jews in the Kitos War (115 – 117), and in 365 AD, when she was 15, the Cretan earthquake (8.5 magnitude) unleashed a massive tidal wave, killing thousands and causing much destruction. Hypatia was head of the Neoplatonic school in Alexandria but zealots often held sway over public opinion. There are two gory accounts of her murder (flayed alive) and the Parabalani – Christian zealots – are held to be responsible. Hypatia died at the age of 70.
4) Vanished woman – post-menopausal
Woman has three stages in life: child, sex goddess and crone. Lose the power to procreate and you become invisible – people treat you as if you aren’t there. After fertility is after sex, after attractiveness, after beauty. After this you are grey – the best you can hope for is white but not the whiter of virginal promise. Harsh statements underlined by magazines of the day that extol products to confer sensuality, desirability, youth… and the notional power of being able to produce children.
Of course, those who’ve had children see through the façade. Extolled as good does not equate to good; it equates to hard work, striving to do what’s right, guiltily sneaking selfish pleasures. Letting go is a relief but, oh to be desirable again, to have men begging at your feet.
5) Seated Rose – no face to represent lost fertility
(picture x 2)
Return to the theme of lost attractiveness. Some say the quest for the perfect mate is eternal because so many members of the opposite sex can give you fine sons and daughters. There’s an eternal question: what do men want? Many say they just want sex – no children – but they then limit that to attractive, fertile women. No shit, Sherlock. Reliable men are basically monogamous; unreliable ones, those who help stir up the gene mix, are there and gone in the night. Turn the question round: a fertile woman has assets to bag a prize; something to take past menopause.
6) Hanging – hysterical Isis
Woman hung at the waist as a cure for hysteria.
The exhibition is from artists who practise their work in Blackburn. I am grateful to them for the opportunity to view.
Other links: https://www.artrabbit.com/events/hypnotic