“To achieve the highest standards of beauty,” artist Annica Cuppetelli writes, “A person must endure sacrifice. Finances, comfort, even freedoms are but a few of the offerings brought to the altar of beauty, although historically these sacrifices have rarely been carried equally across the genders. In fact, it is typically females that bear the heaviest costs, incurring in practices that involve the most extreme sacrifice of all: the body.”
In her solo show at K. OSS Contemporary Art Gallery, Cuppetelli explores the “offerings brought to the altar of beauty,” with a collection of textile based sculptures—objects that she writes in her artist’s statement, “speak of the way women must constrict their bodies to achieve societal standards of beauty.”
The resulting body of work is impressive in its grandness, corsets jut from the floors and ceilings, producing anxiety in an open room. They evoke foot binding and straight jackets but also the corsets Frida Kahlo wore beneath her many layers which brings to mind the dresses of Isabel and Ruben Toledo’s exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Labor of Love.
In regards to the later, an image: Toledo’s first sewing machine, under a canopy of dresses, swathed in fabric, spliced with another image: Toledo addressing a crowd in the DIA’s auditorium, expressing the excitement in the moment when her father gifted her with an industrial machine—she could now make clothing found in retail stores.
Both artists use the dress form as a site to explore the constrictions and divisions between gender, labor and fashion. Toledo’s work brings the history of fashion into the factory. Cuppetelli employs “sewing, basketry, and weaving techniques,” to “recall another historically normative role of women: domestic labor.”
Tomorrow night Friday, February 8th, author and art critic, Lynn Crawford will join Cuppetelli at K. OSS for a conversation about “the three-way intersection–and resulting complexities–of fashion, fiction and other creative expression.” It will be moderated by Michael Stone Richards, CCS professor and founding editor of the Detroit Research Journal.
As far as we know there will be no mention of the parallels between Cuppeteli’s and Toledo’s work. That is our gift for you to explore. Both shows are worth the time.
The panel discussion, Measures of Constriction, is free and open to the public, but guests are encouraged to register through Eventbrite.