|Thanksgiving turkey 1919, Bain Collection|
|Esposito Pork Shop, Ninth Avenue, c 1995|
I first came across these surreal name-themed real photo postcards about five years ago at the annual Ephemera Fair. From a distance of over 100 years, I found them simultaneously humorous and creepy and I decided to start a mini collection. The women pictured on the cards also reveal a fascinating mix of Victorian maidens and vamps who foreshadow silent film stars like Theda Bara. [I'll interject here that the faces are an intriguing mix of creamy innocents, stylized Gibson Girls, "fast" girls and lumpen dullards. Also interesting is the ample evidence of the artist’s hand in the literal cut-and-paste collaging of the girls.]
This summer when I heard about Missouri House Representative Todd Akin's “legitimate rape” comments I was disturbed by his ignorance and callousness, as well as with how these comments fit in with a wave of attacks on women's rights (defunding Planned Parenthood, Sandra Fluke, &c.). A few days later in my studio I came across the name cards and had the idea of deploying individual letters from the postcards into the phrase “legitimate rape.” It seemed appropriate to use images of women from an era before the Nineteenth Amendment as a vehicle to critique Akin's misogyny.
I'm interested in resurrecting ephemera and showing how the past resonates with the present. With the “legitimate rape” project I wanted to make something that both respected the eccentricity of the original material and simultaneously brought the women in the postcards (and all of their various associations) into the present. I was thrilled that on Election Day women and men in Missouri and throughout the United States stood up for women's rights. Congratulations also to Maine and Maryland on voting for marriage equality! [Noteworthy, too, that the Senate has now reached 20% women.] “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” -William Faulkner.