Friday, February 28, 2014

What Nadja Pelkey Wrote



Marie's Electric Womb

Nadja Pelkey is a Freelance Copywriter and is the Program Coordinator, Neighbourhood Spaces Artist Residency in Windsor, Ontario.  She wrote an essay for my upcoming exhibition, The Four Housewives of the Apocalypse, at the Thames Art Gallery.

Here is an excerpt from her essay:


"Laurie Langford’s Four Housewives of the Apocalypse is a richly decorated environment, Langford leaves no surface untouched from the walls to the incorporation of draperies and textiles there is no safe harbour to rest your eyes. Each large figure is heavily detailed, almost completely encrusted in domestic ephemera. Previously used and useful household objects are dismantled and reimagined as weaponry, limbs, and symbolic tools for the Housewives to employ. The four large figures, the housewives are anachronistic. There’s a strong Steampunk aesthetic running through the works, decades and centuries are removed from a continuum and pushed up against each other, held fast with electronics and denied any sense of historical continuity. There are so many references in the works that fully enumerating them would be futile. Langford is comfortable with this surfeit of objects. Previously she worked with shadowboxes, creating shallow dioramas with the artifacts of kitsch. The scale of this work allows Langford to physically enter the work, and construct an immersive environment as opposed to a glimpse through a window. Throughout the exhibition there are nods to Alice in Wonderland. Barbie dolls costumed as playing card sentries, keys, and a disorienting space where the scale of the figures shrinks the viewer. Attempting to anchor these characters in a familiar story, a beloved story whose attendant figures also function as a sort of shorthand – a means of reinforcing Langford’s view of this work as a reflection of the societal pressures she feels as a woman.


The Four Housewives each represent a facet of womanhood that Langford has identified as problematic. She’s named them all- Viola, Marie, Greta, and Fiona. Each figure is a distinct character that Langford has created in order to illustrate her thesis..."

-Nadja Pelkey, February 14, 2014


Laurie Langford is a Chatham-based visual artist, with her practice encompassing printmaking, photography, shadowboxes, and installations.  Her work has been presented at ARTspace and the Thames Art Gallery in Chatham, Ontario; W K P Kennedy Art Gallery in North Bay, Ontario; and at the SB Gallery in Windsor, Ontario.  She has served as guest curator at ARTspace, and her writing has been published in The Globe and Mail.  Langford strives to create dialogue about the private and public aspects of women’s lives, both past and present, through dark humour.  Born in Toronto, with her formative years spent in Prince Edward Island, Langford now lives and works in Chatham, Ontario.


For more interesting exhibitions at the Thames Art Gallery, click here:  Thames Art Gallery

Apocalypse Soon!

The official Four Housewives of the Apocalypse invitation

March 14th is fast approaching! 

While you wait for me to post fabulous shots from the upcoming opening reception, I thought you might like to read my artist's statement for the exhibition. This write-up will appear in the publication.

"I learned about the role of women through social gatherings in a small maritime farming community that had a Victorian-era hangover, yet I was simultaneously absorbing the images of modern women that I saw in TV commercials and magazines. The two messages were almost diametrically opposed. This split often comes out in my art practice through topics like Good/Evil and Past/Present.

The women represented in The Four Housewives of the Apocalypse were trailblazers or part of a larger movement, but as women, they still were expected to perform typically female duties. These figures suggest that, no matter how far women advance, they still confront societal expectations and assumptions based on gender.  The title of this exhibition comes from a thought I once had.  What if every woman in every part of the world continued to be accepted in traditional male roles, such as fighting wars and making political policy, but stopped doing traditional female tasks like picking up socks, having babies, entertaining, or remembering the dish for the pot luck?  Social order would deteriorate and, eventually, there would be an apocalypse.

Fiona represents a Celtic Warrior Queen like Boadicea or Catherine of Aragon.  In the context of The Four Housewives of the Apocalypse, Fiona is a woman who is as talented at performing warrior deeds as she is at doing ‘women’s work.’ The men in her life are absent or dead and are unable to defend her.  To survive in their absence, she has developed many facesliterally, as her head is composed of four separate Barbie hair-styling heads, cut and reassembled with black stitches.  She is clothed in Highland battle gear, and stands ready to defend her hearth and home with her tea-tray shield and a mace constructed of a ball of yarn with protruding knitting needles. In addition to her Prince Edward Island tartan cape, she wears a beautifully-made needlepoint skirt featuring a Viking ship under full sail, and fur cuffs made from the pelt of an animal she has hunted and killed. Fiona’s torso, made of a block of stacked Singer sewing machine drawers, gives her a proud and impenetrable stance.

Marie depicts a peasant from the French Revolution who protests the bread rations for part of her day, and comes home to fulfill her role as the good housewife.  Marie’s clothes are deliberately simple, so that the viewer’s focus is on the partially-open breadbox that bisects her torso.  The breadbox is labelled on the outside with two words: ‘bread’ and ‘pain.’  ‘Bread’ refers to Marie’s perpetually pregnant state, as she always has ‘a bun in the oven.’  Childbirth often causes ‘pain,’ but is also the French word for ‘bread.’ Her breadbox uterus, illuminated from within, is lined with soft pink fabric.  The light bounces off the crystals glued to the folds of the pink fabric walls, evoking the spark of life.  Little bunnies and birds and babies frolic in a lush, safe haven under the watchful eyes of a framed illustration of the Virgin Mary.  Reflecting the reality of the outside world, one of Marie’s hands is a mangled meat fork with a nasty hook, and the other holds an electric bread knife.  Although Marie looks demurely away from the viewer, she will fight to feed and protect her children, and might even protest having more children.

Greta embodies a reluctant educator, clothed in a severe costume inspired by WWII.  She has the capability and intelligence to be a General, but because she is a woman, she has been assigned the role of teacher.  Greta’s life has been one of fighting and unfulfillment.  She seems to be ready to teach her charges how to read, but she is bitter and wants only to kill the notions of happiness that children get from pretty story books or the media. The cruelty of life is suggested through the unevenly-ripped, sharp, and red-splattered tin newspaper printing plates that compose Greta’s skirt.  The plates feature Lady Diana’s wedding, which was a real-life fairy tale with a tragic ending.  Implying incarceration, a disconnected female hand dangles a mysterious key as it creeps out of the wooden writing box that bisects Greta’s body. Her letter opener/hand is ‘stabbing’ a few pages ripped out of an illustrated children’s book, and the confiscated Barbie doll in her pocket has a black gag glued over her mouth.  With a leather-gloved hand, Greta holds a wooden yard stick topped with an eye-less doll’s head that says ‘obey.’ It appears that, upon a whim, Greta will raise the stick and dole out corporal punishment as did many teachers of my generation.  Defiantly smoking a cigarette which dangles out of the corner of her mouth in an almost sultry, post-coital way, Greta is a ‘rotten’ teacher, as the apple next to her suggests.

The purple and green accents used in Viola refer to the proud colours of the Suffragette movement.  Her mechanized/robotic hand is a symbol of rising industrialism in the 1920s and representative of the many women at that time who were reaching out and grabbing opportunities for equality in society and politics.  Sometimes, as Viola illustrates within The Four Housewives of the Apocalypse, there is an unpleasant connection between exploitation and expectations, music, and fashion. Suggesting that she is programmable and her settings can be adjusted, Viola’s nipples are knobs from a Fender Stratocaster. The S&M-style metal strapping on her naked torso is a nod to entertainers such as Madonna, and their overtly sexual clothing which is often made by fashion designers like Jean Paul Gaulthier.  The full set of vintage piano keys that compose Viola’s skirt recalls one of Karl Lagerfeld’s signature works, and suggests Viola’s extensive repertoire of songs. Her ultimate role is symbolized by the phallic vintage radio tubes that thrust out of the top of her head as part of her crown. Viola is often forced to entertain and flirt with her husband’s business partners to ensure his success and social standing. Yet her husband’s business partners cannot get too close, as Viola also holds a glowing red ray gun.


Viola’s head is coquettishly cocked to one side, but she, like the other Housewives, is prepared to stand her ground. Like them, Viola does so barefoot. I have chosen this representation because I feel that women have not yet been allowed to reach their full potential and thus fill their own shoes." 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2 weeks!

In about 2 weeks, on March 14th, 2014, I will be discussing my newest exhibition, The Four Housewives of the Apocalypse, in front of a group of friends at the Thames Art Gallery in Chatham.




I am nervous!  I have been working on this project for almost a year, and I feel as if I am preparing to give birth to four 7-foot tall altered mannequins.


Here is my artist's statement which will appear in the publication:

The Four Housewives of the Apocalypse
by Laurie Langford


I learned about the role of women through social gatherings in a small maritime farming community that had a Victorian-era hangover, yet I was simultaneously absorbing the images of modern women that I saw in TV commercials and magazines. The two messages were almost diametrically opposed. This split often comes out in my art practice through topics like Good/Evil and Past/Present.


The women represented in The Four Housewives of the Apocalypse were trailblazers or part of a larger movement, but as women, they still were expected to perform typically female duties. These figures suggest that, no matter how far women advance, they still confront societal expectations and assumptions based on gender.  The title of this exhibition comes from a thought I once had.  What if every woman in every part of the world continued to be accepted in traditional male roles, such as fighting wars and making political policy, but stopped doing traditional female tasks like picking up socks, having babies, entertaining, or remembering the dish for the pot luck?  Social order would deteriorate and, eventually, there would be an apocalypse.


Fiona represents a Celtic Warrior Queen like Boadicea or Catherine of Aragon.  In the context of The Four Housewives of the Apocalypse, Fiona is a woman who is as talented at performing warrior deeds as she is at doing ‘women’s work.’ The men in her life are absent or dead and are unable to defend her.  To survive in their absence, she has developed many facesliterally, as her head is composed of four separate Barbie hair-styling heads, cut and reassembled with black stitches.  She is clothed in Highland battle gear, and stands ready to defend her hearth and home with her tea-tray shield and a mace constructed of a ball of yarn with protruding knitting needles. In addition to her Prince Edward Island tartan cape, she wears a beautifully-made needlepoint skirt featuring a Viking ship under full sail, and fur cuffs made from the pelt of an animal she has hunted and killed. Fiona’s torso, made of a block of stacked Singer sewing machine drawers, gives her a proud and impenetrable stance.


Marie depicts a peasant from the French Revolution who protests the bread rations for part of her day, and comes home to fulfill her role as the good housewife.  Marie’s clothes are deliberately simple, so that the viewer’s focus is on the partially-open breadbox that bisects her torso.  The breadbox is labelled on the outside with two words: ‘bread’ and ‘pain.’  ‘Bread’ refers to Marie’s perpetually pregnant state, as she always has ‘a bun in the oven.’  Childbirth often causes ‘pain,’ but is also the French word for ‘bread.’ Her breadbox uterus, illuminated from within, is lined with soft pink fabric.  The light bounces off the crystals glued to the folds of the pink fabric walls, evoking the spark of life.  Little bunnies and birds and babies frolic in a lush, safe haven under the watchful eyes of a framed illustration of the Virgin Mary.  Reflecting the reality of the outside world, one of Marie’s hands is a mangled meat fork with a nasty hook, and the other holds an electric bread knife.  Although Marie looks demurely away from the viewer, she will fight to feed and protect her children, and might even protest having more children.


Greta embodies a reluctant educator, clothed in a severe costume inspired by WWII.  She has the capability and intelligence to be a General, but because she is a woman, she has been assigned the role of teacher.  Greta’s life has been one of fighting and unfulfillment.  She seems to be ready to teach her charges how to read, but she is bitter and wants only to kill the notions of happiness that children get from pretty story books or the media. The cruelty of life is suggested through the unevenly-ripped, sharp, and red-splattered tin newspaper printing plates that compose Greta’s skirt.  The plates feature Lady Diana’s wedding, which was a real-life fairy tale with a tragic ending.  Implying incarceration, a disconnected female hand dangles a mysterious key as it creeps out of the wooden writing box that bisects Greta’s body. Her letter opener/hand is ‘stabbing’ a few pages ripped out of an illustrated children’s book, and the confiscated Barbie doll in her pocket has a black gag glued over her mouth.  With a leather-gloved hand, Greta holds a wooden yard stick topped with an eye-less doll’s head that says ‘obey.’ It appears that, upon a whim, Greta will raise the stick and dole out corporal punishment as did many teachers of my generation.  Defiantly smoking a cigarette which dangles out of the corner of her mouth in an almost sultry, post-coital way, Greta is a ‘rotten’ teacher, as the apple next to her suggests.


The purple and green accents used in Viola refer to the proud colours of the Suffragette movement.  Her mechanized/robotic hand is a symbol of rising industrialism in the 1920s and representative of the many women at that time who were reaching out and grabbing opportunities for equality in society and politics.  Sometimes, as Viola illustrates within The Four Housewives of the Apocalypse, there is an unpleasant connection between exploitation and expectations, music, and fashion. Suggesting that she is programmable and her settings can be adjusted, Viola’s nipples are knobs from a Fender Stratocaster. The S&M-style metal strapping on her naked torso is a nod to entertainers such as Madonna, and their overtly sexual clothing which is often made by fashion designers like Jean Paul Gaulthier.  The full set of vintage piano keys that compose Viola’s skirt recalls one of Karl Lagerfeld’s signature works, and suggests Viola’s extensive repertoire of songs. Her ultimate role is symbolized by the phallic vintage radio tubes that thrust out of the top of her head as part of her crown. Viola is often forced to entertain and flirt with her husband’s business partners to ensure his success and social standing. Yet her husband’s business partners cannot get too close, as Viola also holds a glowing red ray gun.


Viola’s head is coquettishly cocked to one side, but she, like the other Housewives, is prepared to stand her ground. Like them, Viola does so barefoot. I have chosen this representation because I feel that women have not yet been allowed to reach their full potential and thus fill their own shoes.