Embroidery onto 1960 Mao Propaganda magazine pages that were left behind in my studio in China. They are stitched using a traditional pine needle stitch with threads scavenged from the refuse of a nearby factory. They pose questions about the value of the individual vs. society while employing a traditional activity once banned by Mao's Cultural Revolution.
China Samplers I-V
Found threads, 1960s Mao propaganda magazines, varied dimensions, 2014
The Empress Dowager Just Wouldn't Listen
1965 Life Magazine Article, mixed threads, silk, clay stamp
11x17 in., 2015
Photos: Will Howcroft
Struck by the poignant anonymity of the Historic Northampton Museum's daguerreotypes Colella scoured flea markets for similar images which she then altered with raw and idiosyncratic stitches that call attention to the Unidentified Woman whose name is long forgotten. This obsolete photographic process aligns with today's social media; both are means that allow people to alter their public identity through the curation of carefully chosen images. Colella stitches together past and present identity politics and inserts herself to provide an alternative chronology where expression replaces suppression and sewing equals activism.
There is a micro/macro statement that exists in Colella's art that mirrors the larger cultural forces that have contributed to the expansion of identities possible of women. In Unidentified Woman Colella fuses her personal experience with her ideology to create work that contributes to the progress of both art and feminism.
These found postcards with notes exposed to the public on the back reveal the exchanges between individuals and the minutia of their lives. There’s an abundance of talk about the weather, plus snippets of personal details tucked into the small spaces on the cards and the trivial formalities of the format.
My husband and I have made a hobby of reading these and sometimes even piecing together loose biographies. The photographic images document place and the notes expose information ranging from the tenor of a relationship to the details of a train schedule.
I’ve been cataloging snippets as non sequitur statements and embroidering them onto the postcards as “Samplers”, to illuminate quirky characterizations and situations with a tongue in cheek sense of humor.
The embroidery brings to mind early samplers where writings of moral and religious platitudes were used to educate character while learning to stitch.
The postcards mostly date from early to late 20th century and yet the sentiments mirror many of the issues of today.
This collection is part of a photography/craft exhibition at Form + Concept gallery, Santa Fe, in October 2018.
Photos: Will Howcroft