A Woman's Work is Never Done: Eliza Bennett's 'flesh as canvas' embroidery

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London-based artist Eliza Bennett began by working in textiles and fashion design, and uses techniques from those realms on her own hands. Her skin becomes cloth, on which she stitches embroidered patterns that trace a narrative.

In "A Woman’s Work is Never Done,” she literally sews her own skin with needle and thread, a representation of just how hard women’s work really is.

A series of photographic works titled 'A Woman's Work is Never Done' Using my own hand as a base material, I considered it a canvas upon which I stitched into the top layer of skin using thread to create the appearance of an incredibly work worn hand. By using the technique of embroidery, which is traditionally employed to represent femininity and applying it to the expression of its opposite, I hope to challenge the pre-conceived notion that 'women's work' is light and easy. Aiming to represent the effects of hard work arising from employment in low paid 'ancillary' jobs, such as cleaning, caring and catering, all traditionally considered to be 'women's work'.

The technique, I recall first applying to my hand under a table during a home economics class in school. I was totally amazed to find that I could pass a needle under the top layers of skin without any pain, only a mild discomfort. As with many childhood whims it passed and I hadn't thought any more about it until quite recently when I decided to apply the process to my hand to make it appear calloused and work worn like that of a manual labourer. Some viewers consider the piece to be a feminist protest, for me it's about human value. After all, there are many men employed in caring, catering, cleaning etc... all jobs traditionally considered to be 'women's work'. Such work is invisible in the larger society, with 'A woman's work' I aim to represent it.

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[elizabennett.co.uk via emptykingdom.com]

Notable Replies

  1. "I decided to apply the process to my hand to make it appear calloused and work worn like that of a manual labourer".

    Because mutilating yourself is easier than, you know, doing manual labor.

    "for me it's about human value"

    Not recognizing the irony in a hipster artist "honoring" honest hard work via self-mutilation.

  2. I saw an incredible sunset last night, but I didn't paint it because I'm not mentally disturbed, however.

    I saw a really cool bird in flight this morning, but I didn't take its picture, because I'm not mentally disturbed, however.

    I saw an anguished form of a forlorn parent bursting with pathos, struggling to free itself from a block of marble, but I didn't pick up a hammer and chisel because I'm not mentally disturbed, however.


    In other news, did any of you actually READ the text, where she says it's going through the top layer of skin, not into the flesh? I remember doing stuff like this, just like she remembered it. It doesn't hurt, because it's a like a controlled scrape. It certainly separate out the squickish from the non-squickish.

  3. Seki says:

    What's with all the pearl clutching? It's a bit of thread through the top layer of dead skin. There won't be a trace of it left two weeks from now. It's mutilation as much as nail biting is.

  4. Not really, unless she screws up.

    My high school once did some sort of school pride thing where they handed out a little blue ribbon to every student in homeroom, along with a pin to pin it to our shirts. Being a transgressive weirdo, I quickly discovered that most people weren't really interested and would give me their ribbons if I asked, and by lunchtime I'd assembled a complete bandolier and hat. On further experimentation, I discovered that I could carefully slide a pin under the very top layer of dead skin and attach ribbons to my arms, freaking out the normos without actually pricking or hurting myself, not even if it caught on something and was torn free.

    That's what this lady is doing. She's not piercing living skin, only the outer layer of dead cells. Done carefully, it should be far less invasive than even a professional ear piercing.

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