"Vessel"comments on the woman's place in Chinese tradition through a mixed media narrative about the little known practice of breast binding. In contrast to the practice of foot-binding that is much sensationalized in the West, breast binding cloaks its oppression beneath the demure surface of virtuous modesty that is less easily read by Western eyes. "Vessel" is as much about that oppression as the invisibility of cultural subtexts; it is also an homage to the women who endured — especially my aunt who told me about her experience of breast binding as a girl, imperturbably recounted in her old age.
A narrative based on her story is written in graphite on a single-bed size white sheet, and runs over a low-relief bodice set into the sheet. Red light glows through the front opening of the bodice that is tightly fastened by 30 pairs of loops and buttons. Large, vermilion words from a 10th c. manual called "Admonitions for Ladies" march down the sheet over the narrative. On a shelf below the sheet is a photograph of my aunt, with the same imperturbable smile tinged perhaps with patient irony and sadness. Two Chinese characters are embroidered on the sheet: at the top, beneath a vermilion "HUMILITY", is the character nu, Woman; at the foot, the character yuan, Plaint, referencing a classical form of poetic lament.
Mixed media installation, 61" x 91" x 7". Cotton bed sheet, graphite, fabric paint, fiberglass, wood, cardboard, florescent light, silk thread embroidery, framed photograph.