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Commentary & Critique – Body of Expression


The body can be an shocking vehicle for artistic expression for many, often challenging cultural norms of appropriateness of time, place and use, it’s a powerful tool when combined with a questioning and challenging mind. Unlike a canvas, a body looks back at you, registers your reactions, makes you the watched as well as the watcher. Its a highly personal, and often intimate means to communicate artistic expression. With such narrow cultural norms in the West of appropriate conduct, gender politics and polite behavior, its not difficult to challenge the status quo through use of the body. We do it all the time with piercing and tattoos; body modification that challenges a system that feels too limiting in its definition of acceptable appearances. These particular artists utilize traditional craft while using the body as the canvas, or the vessel for material expression. Shocking in the element of unexpectedness, yet mundane in their use of simple craftwork, they each strike an intriguing balance between normalcy, rebellion and expression.


British artist, Eliza Bennett’s work focuses on the objectification of the human body. Using her hand as a canvas she stitches the top layer of her skin using colored embroidery thread to create the appearance of work worn hands. Using embroidery techniques, she challenges the notion that “women’s work’ is in any way easy or light. Aiming to represent the effects of hard work through the piercing of her skin, her commentary is on the traditionally undervalued chores of cleaning, caring and catering, all historically considered ‘women’s work’. Her work entitled ‘A Woman’s Work is Never Done’ was produced in 2011.

DavidCataDavid Cata is a Spanish artist also using his body as his canvas to tell stories, by embroidering portraits of the people who have made a mark in his life, onto his hand. Using his body as the main protagonist in the creative process, he produces intriguing artistic portraits, framed by the pain of both construction and deconstruction of the actual art itself. The series of intimate embroidered scribbling’s, depict those who have played a part in his life. He legitimizes those experiences, while mirroring the discomfort, pain and connection felt in relationships. The physical manifestation of embroidering them onto his hand, gives form and expression in a very literal sense to the marks they leave in his life.


Melbourne performer and craftivist, Casey Jenkins recent performance piece, entitled Casting Off My womb, incorporated her knitting for 28 days straight with yarn inserted into her vagina. Each day a new skein of yarn, wound to unravel from the center was inserted into her vagina, from which she would proceed to knit. Intended as a means to access an intimate connection with her own body, the performance was built around a woman’s physical and menstrual cycle. With the intent of challenging feelings of discomfort and awkwardness around showing female genitalia in public, Jenkins chose knitting, as a the connector, because craft implies feelings of warmth and normalcy, as an everyday, ordinary hobby. As part of a feminist exhibition that featured over 150 female and one male artist. The piece subverted traditional craft, often associated with women, and derided as safe and non-threatening. Jenkins used those cultural assumptions to draw people into a greater discussion on the discomfort we feel when confronted with body intimacy and female genitalia. Intended also as an exploration into her own fertility as a gay women. Describing the process as “unusual” and “restrictive, but not painful”, the performance included her menstrual cycle, dying the soft white yarn a pastel pink in color, Jenkins said it “makes knitting a hell of a lot harder, because the wool is wet, and so you have to kinda yank at it”.


Eliza Bennett: http://elizabennett.co.uk

Davod Cata: http://davidcata.com

David Cata VideoPortraits on hands: https://vimeo.com/81201747

David Cata Ni Conmigo Ni Sin Mi: https://vimeo.com/47199924

Casey Jenkins Vaginal Knitting: http://youtu.be/q6RZZf6HMzo