IArticle

          I was born at 12:27am, on August 17th 1986. Wrapped in a pink blanket, I remained with my mother in the hospital for several days. On a bedside table, stood a ceramic figurine of Walt Disney’s Cinderella, my father’s first gift to me. As I grew and began to understand her dancing, musical silhouette as an icon of femininity, I couldn’t help but notice how this portrait of the heroine benefitted men rather than the woman purportedly at the story’s center. In Disney’s rendering, Cinderella was a walking doll with huge, child-like eyes and a tiny waist. She was demure, obedient, and decorative. She bought her freedom by donning the fancy dress and marrying the prince. I don’t think that my father saw this when he gave me this gift. He didn’t intend his actions to be repressive even if he was suggesting a model for my own character. I was his princess—and, as such, I was loved for being small and disempowered. I tried to see past these aspects of the Disney figurine and looked for the saving graces in Cinderella’s story: her resourcefulness and hard work, her love of animals, and her ability to find magic in the mundane. Her story taught me that my imagination was endless and that I could create my own world. 

 

          But none of these lessons were encoded in that small ceramic figure. I began to understand how my body was similarly interpreted—that being a girl meant that I was supposed to play house and take care of dolls, games of make-believe meant to coach the reality of my later life. But I wasn’t interested in that type of play. I wanted to construct cities for my toy dinosaurs with Legos and train sets, hide out in pillow forts, or dig in the dirt for buried treasure. As I grew older, I became an aficionado of strategy games like chess or battleship. As much as my parents tried to push me to be “one of the girls,” I rebelled. I often felt alienated by my family and their different ideas about who I should be and how I should act. Sometimes, I would imagine the story of my birth and childhood as though I really were some otherworldly creature, made of fundamentally different stuff.

 

          Playing upon stereotypes of boy and girlhood, I have recreated these different playthings from my childhood as ceramic forms sapped of color. On a simple, rectangular surface, Cinderella terrorizes a broken landscape of Legos and model train tracks. In a video work, I crush this replica of the Cinderella figurine, a final attempt to exorcize the conventions that it upholds. Elsewhere, a fragment of stone—like the alien child I felt myself to be—is swaddled in tresses of silk. Wall-based photographs and fabric hangings thematize color-based gender stereotypes, reflecting upon the pinks and blues worn by Cinderella in the Disney movie, as well as upon the contemporary Italian practice of celebrating the birth of a new child by decorating homes with extravagant ribbons in either pink or blue.

 

IIMaterials

Silk, photography, metal, ceramics, and stone.

Most of the materials used are discarded and have been up-cycled.