An exhibition in response to the collections of Historic Northampton and the forces that have shaped
women's identities since the 18th century.
Throughout history artists have eschewed their traditional training to give us new insights. Likewise, Colella mastered the precision and complexities of the needle arts early on from her community. To make work of contemporary relevance, she strays from established techniques to create headwear that infers an inner vitality and self awareness on the wearer – thereby redressing fashion's oppression.
Headwear has long played a role in indicating the class, status and occupation of the wearer - enforcing conformity and erasing individuality. From the 18th century poke bonnet which restricted women's field of vision, to today's hijab, women in particular have been subjugated to fashion dictates and social norms. Colella's headwear sculptures become a vehicle for a subversive coded language which addresses the play between women's visibility and invisibility.
Struck by the poignant anonymity of the 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.
Excerpt copy: Anna LaPrade Seuthe, Sally Curcio Photography: Will Howcroft, Stephen Petegorsky, Jodi Colella
This Program is supported in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council, a local agency which is supported
by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.