My work investigates feminine power and notions of beauty. Inspiration comes from the handkerchief, its history, use and design. A complex object, it holds dichotomies that echo
the complexities that form the context of my work. The handkerchief conceals and reveals. Its decorative camouflage hides mucus, tears, sweat, blood, etc. when used during moments of emotional breakdown or physical crisis. It can be a symbol of normative femininity as well as the gay/counter-culture/avant guard Dandy. It begs “come to me” and “remember me” or “save me”. It’s the razzle dazzle of wearable signifiers.

I share the concerns of the Surrealists’ work, which are still relevant to our contemporary concerns –– the political, the psycho/social, and spiritual, grappling with the subconscious, working within, yet pushing against, established systems. Metaphorically these Surrealist underpinnings are the paradoxical …the necessary destruction before creation, beauty in ugliness, the pain in pleasure, the end and the beginning. I aspire to the Brechtian “V” Effect —the Distancing/Alienating Effect of making the familiar strange (or the strange familiar).

Unprimed cotton batiste, the fabric commonly used to make handkerchiefs, is the surface on which catastrophic marks, drips and stains, pattern and camouflage, work with and against each other to evoke patterns in human nature, life cycles and the creative process. Images and painting qualities are superimposed, and often conflict. Distinctions are blurred between the natural, the vegetal and animal world, and the manufactured and designed, and accidental. The untethered-ness, the sense of being unmoored in the intertwining, folding, and undulating imagery speaks to the condition of our time.

I see my work as a is part of the collective consciousness, one of many Janus heads gazing back to the past, looking for meaning and sense of the present, and pulling both, into the future. The current paradigmatic shift away from patriarchal dominance and authoritarianism towards a new empowerment of the matriarchal will need a new way to describe the feminine.

Jennifer B. Webster 2019