The medium of embroidery calls to mind a distinctly feminine occupation. Although its roots began in the Medieval guilds with men and women sweating over the stitches to create pieces of art equal to painting, it was the Victorians who appropriated the skill. Accomplished Austen-esque characters meshed with the Victorian ideal of womanhood meant to sing, to play piano and to embroider all equaled a perfect life mate. Regardless of class, needlework evokes a lot of what women were expected to act like in the 19th century. For the lower classes, according to one advertiser, ‘Girls bought to ‘lace making’ make good wives being clean and handy with the needle’. However, within the upper reaches of society, women who spent too much time indulging in embroidery out of her ‘designated leisure time’ were considered vain.
This slight delve into the social nuances of embroidery calls to light a deeper meaning to Anzeri’s foray into the art. As a male Anzeri has taken on two of the biggest motifs associated with femininity. First with his luxurious hair sculptures- in one a long golden braid is draped around the neck and shoulders of a straight-jacket- and now with a needle and thread.
Taking discarded photographs from the past Anzari sews Miro like shapes over the faces of the people. Ironically, if looking at an old photograph disconnected with you and your family the face and expression of the subject would hold no resonance, no relevance with your exisistance. You would be emotionally removed, but your curiosity may be piqued. By covering the face, though, Anzeri removes the subject, the viewer and curious onlookers from one another irrevocably. The tilt of a chin in defiance, a small smile conveying satisfaction- if these faces hold such expressions then we will never know.
Despite covering the person of the picture there is something which is brought alive in these long dead souls. Bright hues vie for attention amidst monochrome; the two-dimensional subject suddenly becomes a three-dimensional sculpture. The masks of thread which cover the faces take on the echoes of Venetian masque balls, tribal face paints and covered identities. The idea of Victorian female vanity is turned on its head as the faces so preened over in life are masked.
It is this masking which exposes so much of the human condition. Although the artwork is aesthetically a work of art, that incessant human thirst to know kind of makes you want to unpick the thread and story to know what is beneath. Ultimately the faces behind will never be exposed- they are lost in the deluge of time and without age and without personality. Anzeri’s cover-up is the most exposing thing of all