The eggshells in this work act as a layered metaphor for feminine labour: they are symbols of reproductive potential and domestic work, but also suggest the emotional care given a threatening or potentially-dangerous person; the expression “walking on eggshells” implies the careful, delicate handling often required of women who are responsible for the emotional stability and behaviour of men they encounter. In this way, the work addresses women's varied social roles as emotional labourers: as kin-keepers within the domestic realm, and as the subjects of street harassment and other microaggressions in the public sphere.
The piece also taps into the fragility of a masculinity that depends upon consistent shoring up, healing, mending, and soothing by women emotional labourers. This fragility is evident in the delicate, cracked eggshells and the helplessness of the men and beasts in the referenced nursery rhyme to save or repair their own giant egg (in this case, the patriarchy or an inflated and unsustainable entitlement to male power/privilege). The work turns toxic masculinity against itself by laying bare the impossibility of patriarchal capitalism without women's unpaid work to act as a buoy, and the brokenness of a violent masculine culture that depends upon women validating male egos and healing male wounds in order to live with itself.
Have Your Cake and Eat It Too was created in response to the upcoming anniversary of White women's suffrage in Alberta and its significance to me as a White woman living in this province. The work embodies the colonial sentiment that is my inheritance as a woman raised White in this land: a mash-up of entitlement, ignorance, consumption and desire.
Have Your Cake and Eat It Too is celebratory, but not unequivocally so. It responds with ambivalence to the uneven distribution of political and social power among Albertan women. Lighting candles for the hundredth anniversary of women's suffrage, I am aware that indigenous women have only been voting in this province since the '60s. Celebrating the groundbreaking work of the Famous Five, I am aware that my first-wave forebears helped spread eugenic ideology; that their work shored up support for the Sexual Sterilization Act of 1928. Because I am White, I am able to celebrate hard-won victories 'for women' and enter into a White feminist narrative that glosses over the unequal granting of rights that is a part of Alberta's history.
In Have Your Cake and Eat It Too I am investigating the dissonance between two contradictory beliefs: the myth that feminism has swept all Albertan women along its progressive path at an even pace; and the fantasy that White women can somehow maintain privileged access to the benefits of social progress without becoming complicit in inequality. The work is an investigation into the imaginative capacity for self-deception, a performance of having it both ways, a manifestation of the contemporary colonial spirit in white frosting and coloured sprinkles.
In feminist writing, there is often a search for language that is connected to the body, to bodily experience. There is a need, as Adrienne Rich describes, “[t]o reconnect our thinking and speaking with the body of this particular individual, a woman.”
My own body is tied inextricably to my role as wife and mother. Though not trained in the domestic arts, much of my time is spent doing those things we're told that housewives do. I sew. I clean. I fold laundry. My body loathes and loves these things. It seeks solitude in these things. It screams for recognition. It rages against the tedium. It caresses each task like a lover. It is from my occupation of gendered domestic space that my work emerges. The tangible traces of feminine labour that litter my carpet (dryer sheets, lint, bits of thread, stray clothing) fuel my studio practice, and the laborious nature of my creative work acts as a metaphor for the interminable work of keeping house.
Recently, my work has taken on a new voice as a personification of household labour, as domesticity calling out to be heard, cherished, cleansed, sexed. The repetitious and mundane tasks of family life carry within them a shocking intimacy and sensuality. My hands touch these clothes like they touch you. You wear these clothes like you wear me. I wash these clothes like I wash you, I fold them like you fold me.
Using the language of traditional women's work and of feminist visual culture, my work examines the intersections of the erotically-charged and the unremarkable, the familiar and the mysterious, the sexual and the nurturing.