I began the stitched pieces while taking a month-long class on women in the Renaissance in Assissi, Italy in 1997. Most of the imagery comes from frescoes we studied, but two of the images are symbols for the female saints Claire and Catherine.
The process itself satirizes the female occupation of embroidery. The paper ground has been layered with alternating applications of graphite pencil and oil pastel until a rich solid surface is built up. The white floss is stitched roughly and, rather than being pristine, has become soiled during the work process.
Though the sources of the imagery are religious, gender and sexuality have been referenced in the simple iconic forms. A half-moon boat shape with a figure from a Giotto fresco records Mary Magdelene’s journey across the sea to become a hermit. The Madonna with one breast exposed, a common image during times of famine, has been represented with a hand and breast. A hair shirt depicts Saint Claire’s vow of poverty. A slit in the garment of the Madonna del Parto (the pregnant Madonna) covered timidly by a hand appears to be a gesture of protection of her sexuality. An image of the baby Jesus, devoid of context, has become just a reclining baby.