fat and blood

This new body of work by Sarah E. Webb continues her interest in feminism, maternity and the corporeal. fat & blood (and how to make them) , refers to the attempts of Victorian women to control their own physicality. Responding to S. Weir Mitchell's famed “rest cure,” the work questions how women's bodies were seen as mere tools for the conception of children and objects to be manipulated by a male-dominated society in which women were considered merely reproductive, not productive. The central installation of fat & blood is comprised of nine handmade medical gowns. Using the contemporary paper gowns we are each asked to don in the doctor's office as a pattern, Webb sewed their equivalent with cheesecloth and red thread, then hand dipped each gown in beeswax. While identical in their conception, the gowns become individual in their execution thereby refuting a “one size fits all” approach to medical treatment. Accompanying the gowns are three cherry boxes containing vials of Queen Anne's Lace seeds, an arcane method of contraception. fat & blood explores the shift in who has cared/cares for a women's body. The installation questions and considers the cultural impact of relinquishing the role of the midwife into the hands of the (male) physician.

Kristen Frederickson, Director
Kristen Frederickson Contemporary Art

waxing and waning

One of the best is a video of an elegiac performances by Sarah Webb in which she methodically dips flowers in wax. The multiple metaphorical implications of those materials gives Webb's performance unusual poignancy, especially with the ornate (wedding) gown she wears in the piece, displayed in the gallery on a mannequin.

Edward J. Sozanski
“Their bodies, their selves animating art”
Philadelphia Inquirer , December 13, 2002

narrative threads

Sarah E. Webb explores the fraught terrain of girlhood and motherhood in her installations. Her collections of doll dresses, flowers and other objects are associated with femininity, innocence and childhood as reined in and defined by socially constructed gender roles. Strongly influenced by feminist theory and artistic practice, Webb asks questions about the seeming simplicity of childhood games and their artifacts. As well, the links among generations of women become central as Webb's mother's wedding dress stands embellished by her daughter's complex textual embroidery, and accompanied by flower petals disengaged from their stems by her granddaughter's childish hands. Issues of physicality, memory, role playing and creativity resonante within Webb's elegant installations.

Kristen Frederickson, Director
Kristen Frederickson Contemporary Art

milk and tears

 

Sarah Webb's 2001 installation milk & tears offers twenty-eight cloth diapers hanging from a wall like so many deflated balloons. In a delicate script, Webb has embroidered the edges of each diaper in blood-red thread with a portion of a poem by Anne Sexton entitled Dreaming of Breasts:

Mother,
I ate you up.
All my need took
You down like a meal.

This meditation on the breast as locus of pleasure and pain, as site of nurturing and place of destruction, shares (Ghada) Amer's celebration of the contradictions of the female body. Working with fragmentary and paradoxical languages of forms, materials, and ideologies, Amer and her colleagues take heed of Barthes' affirmation: “The text of pleasure is a sanctioned Babel.”

Laura Auricchio
Art Journal
Winter 2001