Spinsters (map of virtue)

‘Spinsters (map of virtue)’ is my contribution for Melk & Bloed on invitation by Suze May Sho. A project in printed matter.

Spiensters (plattegrond van de deugd) / Spinsters (map of virtue), 60 x 84 cm, 2011 | front

The newspaper Melk & Bloed by Suze May Sho is a heritage & modern art project for the Overijssel theater festival ‘Kunsten op Straat’. Melk & Bloed (Milk & Blood) is a white/ red folk art pattern on fabric. In 2011 Suze May Sho asked twelve artists / writers for a contribution of 60 x 84 cm, double-sided. Twelve contributions are printed on the front and back of twelve sheets, folded together to form the Melk & Bloed newspaper, which was distributed in style to the visitors of the festival.

For the project I bought an old traditional folk art hat that was common in the region where the festival took place.

traditional dot work on fabric by traditional woman

I took the hat apart, it consisted of two parts. I was also intrigued by the photo of Hendrikje Hooikammer showing her hat in a beautiful way: she bows to show the top of her hat. At the same time, the photo also shows unrest because the bow shows her virtue. Beautiful and suffocating at the same time. It was also exiting because I did an earlier project named the Commitments in which I photographed heads from above.

left: the traditional children’s hat | right: the map of the parts of the hat

I made the photo of Hendrikje Hooikammer again in traditional clothing to repeat the pose. The idea was to feel the real friction between the beauty of the headgear and the bending attitude of the woman who radiates virtue.

left: Hendrikje Hooikammer, 1944 – right: same pose anonymous, 2011

Spiensters means “women’s visit” in Staphorst dialect. Initially, it means “spinsters”, young women who came together to spin in the evening to socialize. These were single women, married women had no time for this. Over time it has come to mean “visiting women”.

I have unfolded the virtue. The headgear under which a woman had to wrap herself, most of the hair hidden, her thoughts enclosed in fabric. Taking off this headgear “going into civilian” must have been a tough mental decision because it also meant a break with the women’s community. The women kept the social order under strict control through their visits. In this hat I replaced the dot in the traditional dot work pattern with the head with traditional headgear photographed from above, creating a closed women’s system of whispering and monitoring. An invisible force becomes visible. Woman are also perpetrators of the oppressive social order and maintain the system instead of breaking the pattern.

The design on paper is at real size and can be cut out and taped together to make a paper cap. In stead of the traditional hat, one can make a totally different piece of headgear.

backside: Spiensters (plattegrond van de deugd) / Spinsters (map of virtue), 60 x 84 cm, 2011
test with little paper cap and real size model, 2011