Thursday, November 3, 2011

Creative Process Journal: Bricolage and Choosing Fabric

The Swing by Fragonard
Bricolage is a French term that literally means "making do", using whatever materials are on hand. This term can also be used to describe the cultural practice of taking items and using them in a way that they were not intended to create a subversive or resistant meaning - like taking safety pins and using them for body ornamentation.

My choice of fabric for the Marie Antoinette dress project is a form of bricolage. I purchased some toile de jouy fabric in Paris about two years ago (remember this post?) and it has sat in a drawer in my studio ever since. As upholstery fabric, it was a little too thick to embroider easily, and it has sat unused - until now. Although it is on the heavy side, I am hoping the weight of the material will give the dress a quality of gravitas. Since the dress will require over 20 metres of fabric, making do with materials on hand is a relevant cost consideration.

Toile de Jouy Fabric from Paris
This fabric references the iconic painting of the 18th century called “The Swing” by Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806) from the Wallace Collection. In this painting, a young woman dressed in a peach-coloured silk gown sits in a swing hung from a tree in a fantastical dream-like garden while her lover admires her from below. One shoe flies off of her foot as she flies through the air. Painted in 1767-1768, the painting embodied erotic connotations at the time, but the dominant hegemonic reading of this work has changed to now represent romance and femininity. And while the painting as a referent predates Marie Antoinette’s reign as Queen of France and the fabric does not replicate the image, but reinterprets it, the reference embodies the frivolity and romantic notions of the period. As well, the vivid pinks in the fabric tie into the pink of third wave feminism. 

I'm going to have to think about how to add a subversive or resistive element to how I use this fabric.... That part is still up in the air at this point. 

Project Clock: plus 1 hour (painting and fabric analysis)     
Total to date: 14 hours

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