Sunday, 24 June 2018

Otley, the town adjacent to where I live, is celebrating the 300th birthday of its famous son Thomas Chippendale. There's loads of stuff going on to mark the furniture maker's life - tours, talks, events - even an ale has been named in his honour: Chippend'Ale.

While I have no issue with Otley parading its pride in Tom, there are two significant others who, in my opinion, stand out due to their apparent insignificance. His wives.

Thomas married Catherine Redshaw in 1748 and Wikipedia states "and they had five boys and four girls." Catherine died in 1772; in 1777 he married Elizabeth Davis and "fathered three more children". There is plenty of information on Thomas Chippendale on the 'net; unsurprisingly not so much - in fact virtually nothing - on the women who popped out his offspring. Catherine is mentioned on, as being a wife and mother, listing the names of her nine children. Elizabeth can also be found on the same site where her life is also reduced to a summary consisting of her birth date, death date and names of children.

Of course this is no surprise. Throughout history, the roles of women have been belittled, ignored and erased. Women have always been 50% of the population, but only feature in around 0.5% of recorded history. Dr Bettany Hughes, award-winning historian, author and broadcaster, puts this down to the expansion of civilisations. "At the birth of civilised society, you have these very highly productive and sophisticated, settlements, with women having great status; they are high priestesses, they have property rights and own land, they write poetry- but these new civilisations want to expand. So – broadly speaking – when that happens, what you need is muscle power, and society becomes more militarised. The balance of power shifts."

So while men leave their wives and children at home to go off to battle, to fight other men who have left their wives and children at home, military power and macho posturing muscle in on the lives of women, diminishing their roles and enforcing the rules of patriarchy.

For at least 3,500 years, the stories of women have been written out of history. In art, business, politics, architecture, medicine and so on, it's the men who are remembered in books and on Wikipedia.

18th century British statesman Lord George Lyttelton, in his poem Advice the a Lady, 1773:
Seek to be good, but aim not to be great;
A woman's noblest station is retreat.

Behind every great man there's a great woman was adopted as a slogan for the 1960/70s feminist movement, first having been used in the 1940s. Less used in more recent years as the imagery of women being behind men is open to misinterpretation.

"A woman's place is in the home." "Men make houses, women make homes."

Catherine and Elizabeth were real people. They were living, breathing women whose gender imprisoned them, for better or for worse, into a life of domestic chores, breeding and child rearing. While Thomas was out showing off his posh furniture, they were most probably stuck at home up to their arms in laundry, food preparation and dirty nappies (or whatever the alternative was at the time).
We only ever hear about the women in the lives of famous men due to their sprogging abilities; they fade into the background as their husbands enjoy the limelight.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Anna Ella Carroll (reincarnated). A random discovery.

Pootling around on Google images, looking for a 'world event' which could be Photoshopped a la This Is Art, I came across this picture:

Abraham Lincoln at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which gave slaves their freedom.
Jan. 1, 1863
Francis Bicknell Carpenter, “The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln,” 1864, oil on canvas, 9 x 15 feet, U.S. Capitol Building

This was ripe for the taking and so I set to work, adding TIA tote bags and MAVA paraphernalia.
(For more information about MAVA, go to
An hour or so later I had created this:

Nom de Plume 2018 (Photoshop)

I was pleased with the result, but then needed to find the original again having closed the webpage. Google thus brought me to this - and in particular, the empty chair which was now occupied.
By a woman.

Laura Era 2016-17  (oil on canvas)

Aside from this image being in colour, there is a vital and timely addition. This is by Laura Era:
“The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln,” 2016-17, oil on canvas.
Depicted in the painting (left to right) are Cabinet members Edwin M. Stanton, Salmon P. Chase, President Abraham Lincoln, Gideon Welles, Caleb B. Smith, William H. Seward (seated), Montgomery Blair, Anna Ella Carroll (reincarnated), and Edward Bates.

Anna Ella Carroll (reincarnated)

Anna Ella Carroll was born on August 29, 1815, in Somerset County, Maryland, USA. She lived in a male-dominated realm of war, politics, and diplomacy but as a key military strategist, Presidential adviser, and “unofficial” member of Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet, she was probably the most powerful woman in America during the Civil War.
Yet, her accomplishments are virtually unknown.
When she died in 1894, with no honour, title, pension, or acknowledgement, her life story was already seen as a model for the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
A modern biographer described Carroll as “hands down, the most important political woman of the 19th century.”
Carroll was a war spy, politician, Unionist writer, pamphleteer, author and legal expert. She is credited with helping to prevent Maryland’s secession from the Union. There is much more on her at the source link below:

"Correcting history"

This is what Laura Era has achieved in her 2010 commissioned painting. The original painting hangs over the west staircase in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol and prominently depicts an empty chair draped with a red shawl, along with maps and notes similar to those Carroll carried. Many historians feel it was Carpenter’s way of acknowledging Carroll as the unrecognised member of the Cabinet.

A random discovery of a painting has segued well with my ongoing MA practice in which I have looked at how women have been dismissed or categorised in the art world through labelling. This painting certainly illustrates one aspect of this theme. (see previous post on sexism in art galleries.)

Friday, 23 February 2018

23 2 18 Nutshell News

February 23 2018

Today's News in a Nutshell.

Cabinet of Grotesques meets at a Chequers 'Brexit Away Day'.

(with apologies to the Chapman Brothers).

Trump reveals his prototype for a teacher's gun

Thursday, 22 February 2018

News in a nutshell

Introducing Nutshell News.
Brought to you by the wonders of digital art and Photoshop in this age and era of TrumpBrexitFakenewsGeneraldespair ad infinitum.

Today (February 22 2018), some news outlets ran stories on the UK prime minister's response to rapper Stormzy regarding the Grenfell Tower tragedy and promised but allegedly undelivered financial aid.

I have used Photoshop to create an ironic response which I hope will be understood three-fold: the issue - Grenfell Tower (to say 'tragedy', 'horror' and so on seems so trite as no words can describe what happened and what continues to happen) ; Theresa May's response, as reported by The Guardian, (and interpreted by me), and a word play on her surname May as 'Meh', indicating nonchalance, signified by her head superimposed on shrugging shoulders.

This was today, February 22, 2018.