Kristy Bishop: Bound

graphic of corsets created by artist Kristy Bishop

January 15 – February 28, 2016

Noted South Carolina textile artist Kristy Bishop will be making her second appearance at 701 Center for Contemporary Art. A native of Charleston, Bishop was 701 CCA’s Artist in Residence this past fall. She was also selected for inclusion in the 701 CCA South Carolina Biennial 2015. Bishop’s work undertaken during her residency will be featured in a solo exhibition at the Center that opens on Friday, January 15th, 2016.

Previously recognized for her delicate abstract fiber constructions using natural dyes she processes herself, Bishop’s new work presents intricately constructed, and historically inspired foundation garments including corsets, crinolines, and bum rolls. Her intention is to show constructions that physically represent the pressure women go through to create an ideal body image. Along with the handmade pieces the exhibition will feature photographs of everyday women modeling her garments in their own bedroom settings. By asking others to don one of her corsets, with its references to past centuries, she is exploring the complexity of ingrained ideals within western society on what a woman should look like.

Historical fashions have long been an inspiration for Bishop, who learned how to sew from her grandmother. While studying art at the College of Charleston, Bishop took a particular interest in clothing and its history. Along with using historically inspired patterns Bishop not only hand sewed items but also dyed the fabrics using natural ingredients including walnut hulls, goldenrod, madder root, prickly pear cactus, cochineal insects, and other plant materials.

Bishop explains what she wants this new series to bring to light. “This exhibit is about the modern woman’s internalization of the corset. We no longer wear these foundation garments on a day-to-day basis, yet there are still pressures coming from every outlet to achieve whatever ideal figure is in vogue.  These hand sewed and dyed corsets, crinolines, and bum rolls are accompanied by my photographs of women in their bedrooms wearing them over contemporary clothes.  The bedroom, as a setting, is a personal and private space, as are thoughts regarding body image.  This imagery is referencing both past ideals with the corset being the main vehicle for this and connecting them to the present relationship women have with their own bodies. Every woman has the push and pull of outside expectations and standards that can come in conflict with an acceptance of one’s own body. This is more prevalent now than ever and I want to explore that internal struggle of accepting one’s own body and features but also wanting to adhere to outside societal standards.”

In addition to the artist’s desire for her works to challenge our ideas about social attitudes and body aesthetics, these art works, suspended in mid-air throughout the gallery, also function as delicate pieces of sculpture. Their subtle colors and intricate construction techniques used by Bishop make them objects of grace and beauty. The work Bishop has created for this exhibition will inspire others with its craftsmanship and daring approach to what ideas are behind the ways in which we currently fashion our bodies. Her love of fashion, natural materials, and textile construction, as well as her seeing a need to bring women’s issues to light, has resulted in a beautiful and powerful exhibition at 701 CCA.


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