Sandra DeClerck Essay

Sandra DeClerck Essay

Sandra DeClerck
Spring 2010 Fellow

Sandra DeClerck laughingly recalls that an acquaintance once warned her that paying too much attention to the news would influence her art. In her time as a Spring, 2010 Resident Fellow at the Creative Glass Center of America, DeClerck perhaps confirmed the accuracy of that prediction as she used various casting methods to develop an on-going exploration of feminist themes.

The Belgian sculptor and installation artist points out that she is among those who challenge recent decades of art world infatuation with oblique, diffuse Conceptual art, work that as often as not was fabricated by someone hired by the artist. DeClerck often makes work that is technically difficult and she enjoys technical challenges, but she subordinates technique to the idea. She seems to regard sculpture and installation as a research tool that she uses to “figure things out, I ask questions in different ways and try to answer them,” she says.

Recently she’s used pâte de verre to cast illusionistic representations of doilies and lace. A large pre-CGCA lace carpet was composed of multiple “doilies” each a shallow display platform for a glass breast representing a specific woman’s breast. One was even “a cancer breast,” DeClreck says Many viewers failed to recognize that the crochet was really glass. DeClerck was amused that some even failed to see the conventional element at all, perhaps because it is common in domestic environments. DeClerck “takes the female arts out of the house” to illuminate the often unrecognized roles women are expected to play. She says, “When females became part of society (and began to articulate their points of view) then the idea of truth had to be expanded to include many possible truths.” This multiplicity of perspectives is still often overlooked.

A project at WheatonArts consists of small wall pieces intended to be displayed as a single installation on a painted lace background. It will consist of line “drawings” mounted behind lacey pâte de verre doilies. Sandwiched between painted and dimensional lace, the women represented in the explicit line drawings can be recognized as imprisoned or cloistered in a specifically feminine context.

Sketches on paper in her CGCA studio will be completed after the residency in fused glass representations of sexually inviting (or acquiescent) poses. The drawings, based on pornography, are intended to represent the ideal wife, a virtuoso of the domestic arts (like cooking and crocheting doilies) and a virtuoso of more intimate arts in the bedroom. When a visitor quoted American entertainer Kinky Friedman’s song title “Get Your Biscuits in The Oven and Your Buns in The Bed,” DeClerck laughingly agreed that this cliché is exactly what her doily-related work is about.

A bust based on a life-cast of the artist herself was also destined to be cast in series. DeClerck

plans to enhance it with a lacy glass veil referencing the “hijab” (modest dress) head- or hair coverings prescribed for Muslim women. Muslims make up a much higher percentage of residents of Europe than in the US and government is less reluctant to legally constrain them. Prominent among countries that are limiting the burqa, chadour or niquab in some public contexts are France and DeClerck’s native Belgium, which since 31 March, 2010 has the most restrictive laws.

DeClerck is concerned that Muslim girls and women are not given the opportunity to consider alternatives to wearing hajab and she is willing to legislate that opportunity. By draping an image of herself, she continues the theme of a lace prison, delicately — even prettily— but intractably restricting communication by the one who is covered. Some Americans may find the thought of limitations on hajab a violation of our principles of freedom of religion. A confrontational work like this one clearly avoids the comfortable vagueness of conceptual art and gives us something to discuss.