Forget about these 25 years old, blond beauties and think about the middle aged women. They are no longer needed by their children, they are sometimes put off of work because they are too expensive and often they are not noted any longer on the streets (yes I know this sounds ridiculous – but next time you’re out for errands take a look at how often men look after young women).
The quilts of British textile artist Linda Barlow often show the changing social position of women in society and her newest project was
Searching for the Invisible Woman
Linda Barlow: This project aims to make visible the experience of a large but often-ignored section of society – the middle aged woman. As with most of my work, it is research-based and the interviews I conducted inform the artworks.
Why this subject? Throughout history older women have been represented either as evil as in the wicked stepmothers of our childhood stories, mad as in Bronte’s Bertha, the madwoman in the attic or comic hags as in Banquo’s description of the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (“You should be women, and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so”). Or think of the endless mother-in-law-jokes of 70’s comedians.
Middle age is a time of great change in the lives of many women.
Children leaving home demands that they re-imagine their roles as mother. It largely still falls to women to step in and care for elderly relatives as they become needier, putting on hold or completely dashing any dreams or plans these women might have had for themselves. Parents dying propel them to become part of the ‘older generation’, the keeper of the family stories. Relationships can become tired – incidence of divorce is high in this age group. And there is constant pressure from the media to ‘defy the signs of ageing’, to turn back the clock and maintain a youthful appearance – cosmetic surgery rates are on the up.
However, this can also present an opportunity for re-inventing oneself. Post menopausal women often report increased energy levels and many over 50’s women are starting their own businesses, carving out new careers for themselves once family responsibilities are out of the way.
I wanted to find out how women feel about being this age and to what extent, if at all, they feel pressurized to conform to society’s vision of them.
I hope this quilts will spark a debate around representations of older women, and will present a more positive image based on actual experiences rather than manufactured stereotypes.
I hope so too. And thank you so much Linda for bringing up this theme and create these really moving quilts.
If you want to see more of Linda Barlow’s work go to her website www.lindabarlow.co.uk.
All the quilts of the project “Searching For The Invisible Woman” are available in a book (soft back, 44 pages, colour illustrations throughout) that features an introduction by Dr. Melanie Miller and an essay by Linda Barlow about the thinking behind, and research for the “Searching For The Invisible Woman” project. Also all the contributions from people who had their hands photographed and sent me their ‘Wildest Dreams’.
Also available are packs of four postcards featuring work from the exhibition.
Available from http://www.throughourhands.co.uk/shop/