Last Friday in the Round Room, seniors Mary Hintzen and Jill Bergantz both spoke about the experiences that shaped their art and the pieces they made during this year’s Open Studio course. They were the first two of the year to present their shows, with Hintzen’s on display in the CFA gallery and Bergantz’s showing at the Box.
Bergantz began her lecture by describing her ability to work with a wide range of textiles and processes, especially quilting, a family tradition of hers. “That’s the way I was brought up. Making things and making time to make things,” she said. Bergantz has expanded the definition of what a quilt can be by delineating the process and creating a topographic map quilt, one with waving, curving lines instead of a square pattern. The map was of her home state, California, from where she came to Knox. This technique to create new patterns is dangerous. “The needle can fly off at anytime,” Bergantz explained. “You wear goggles.”
Bergantz also worked with sculpture in the medium of felt and yarn. These fabrics were her first step into the world of sculpture, and many of her materials for sculptures are still unconventional, such as a gown made of gauze and a body bag made of trash bags.
Bergantz also recently developed a curiosity about the anatomical structures of the body, manifesting itself in her watercolors of sciatic nerves and a knit 3-D human heart, complete with veins.
Mary Hintzen’s show, titled “Second Skin,” was also about the body, specifically about the bodies of women and how women relate to the objects and clothing that adorn them. Entering the Red Room in nothing but a pair of white underwear and a white bra, Hintzen said, “I spent so much time on my speech and my PowerPoint that I forgot to pick out clothes.” She insisted that she could not begin her show until she found some clothes to wear.
Weighing her options as the audience offered her clothes, someone offering a spare sweatshirt and another person offering a pair of pants or shoes, she eventually dressed with the most cohesive outfit that the audience could come up with and then apologized for making them wait.
Her intention, especially with her introduction, was to make the audience consider the relationship between women and their clothes. She first entered the art world as a painter and became very interested in women’s bodies and in tracing the earliest messages of femininity in the lives of girls.
Hintzen unearthed many stereotypes in the cartoons of Bugs Bunny, examining what Bugs Bunny wore to denote his gender. When he was a male, he wore nothing. When he was to act like a female, he got dolled up in a dress, makeup, and wig. Bugs Bunny appears in many of Hintzen’s paintings.
After finding where this message of obsession of clothing for women began, Hintzen explored where it is now. “The clothing defines a certain character,” she said. “If I’m wearing this certain ‘thing,’ I’m a wife.”
Hintzen began experimenting with a new medium: dresses. She starts with items like a wedding dress and a longer purple gown in one piece, and then she shreds or disassembles them. “I was harboring a lot of anger toward these objects like the wedding dress. My reaction was to destroy the object and destroy the power it had over me.”
Hintzen’s use of dresses evolved as she examined what the destruction meant if the dress was still consuming so much of her time as a project. In a way, she said, it still had a certain power over her. She also wanted to do live performances of her, clad in only underwear and a bra, destroying dresses and sometimes reconstructing them upon her body. One of the most notable of these performances is one from winter term in which she spent the whole performance talking only to herself while assembling a dress in front of the audience. Only once she put it on did she introduce herself, saying, “Hi. I’m Mary. Thanks for coming.” The performance then ended. She intended to emphasize how women often do not feel like themselves until properly dressed.
She concluded her presentation saying, “Women’s clothing is not just about simply being decent. Women have to have constant development of their wardrobe. How do we negotiate this difficult relationship between women and clothing and the relationship between men and those women? If we do define [the second skin] as being necessary, is it okay to use that to our advantage?”