7th March - 11th October 2020
A story of death, bravery and a woman who changed the destiny of Rome…
It all starts with Lucretia, a matron in Roman history and mythology, who had an important role in starting the anti-monarchist rebellion that overthrew the monarchy and shaped the Roman Kingdom into the Roman Republic.
This Bowes Museum exhibition - Blimey! - was a must see last summer, created by a female led group of independent artists including; Carol Sommer, Amanda Marshall, Nicola Golightly and Vicky Holbrough >> Their deets! >> This collective is a catalyst for artist led activity, and a celebration of individual voices in response to Guido Reni’s Baroque masterpiece,
‘The Death of Lucretia.’.
Poor hand, why quiver’st thou at this decree?/Honor thyself to rid me of this shame;/For if I die, my honor lives in thee;/But if I live, thou livest in my defame.
- W. Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece -
The backstory/arty shit...
Guido Reni (1575-1642), was a leading 17th-century classical artist who created paintings renowned for their sublime beauty and refinement. He is renowned for his lyrical depictions of prominent female characters. His devotional and legendary heroines offer an exploration of female beauty.
Lucretia, the beautiful and virtuous wife of the nobleman Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus. Her tragedy began when she was raped by Sextus Tarquinius, son of Lucas Tarquinius Superbus, the tyrannical Etruscan king of Rome.
Fearing the threats of Tarquin to kill both her and a male slave to make it appear that she had been caught in adultery with the slave, she yielded her body to him but not her mind. Her suicide was motivated by shame, not guilt; with stress and worry growing on how others might interpret her behaviour if she lived and was concerned that unchaste women would claim blackmail as an excuse for their voluntary sexual encounters. Because others could not know her conscience, she decided that suicide would testify to her innocent state of mind and continue the honour of her family.
Heartbroken from the death of his wife and tired of the ever growing tension of the king’s ruling, Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus and Lucius Junius Brutus led the enraged populace in a rebellion that drove the Tarquins out of Rome.
In a series of ‘Piercing Lucretia’ sessions people of all genders and backgrounds were invited to express their response to the painting by sewing on a miniature textile image of it, while seated at Lucretia’s table, reminiscent of the pioneering feminist artist Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party.
It is these patches, which number approximately 500, along with Lucretia’s table, that made up the central point of the immersive installation that took over the Bowes Museums' 50ft. high French gallery space. They are displayed sewn onto denim jackets worn by dozens of mannequins, where visitors could walk around and immerse themselves fully into the exhibition.
The blimey! collective chose the act of sewing as the method of portraying the response to the story of Lucretia, she was raped after being seen to be virtuous by not leaving her weaving to gossip with her friends. The cloth patches symbolise a sense of community and utilise a counter culture embellishment that signifies identity, personality and solidarity.
The propositions of hospitality, community and shared values run through blimey!’s twelve year history of working together, previous projects include ‘blimey! Social’ in 2009 and ‘blimey! Lounge’ in 2011.
Amanda Marshall is a Darlington based artist who explores many mediums in her work, including painting and creative craft works - inspired by her love of colour, light and the great outdoors. She has had works displayed in various regional exhibitions and competitions, in which her pieces have been highly commended and others selected for use in marketing material. She has been an active member of the Darlington based collective, blimey! since its inception.
Carol Sommer :
Within the aesthetic context of conceptual writing Carol Sommer’s practice includes performance readings in the UK and abroad, as well as film and installation that respond to the representation of women in fiction. In 2016 she took part in Reading as Art at Bury Art Museum, and is the author of Cartography for Girls, an A - Z of Orientations identified in the Novels of Iris Murdoch. She teaches Fine Art and Critical & Contextual Studies in Art & Design at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington.
Nicola Golightly is a graphic designer and visual artist. Specialising in image making, print and design, she applies these skills in order to inspire others through participatory projects, client led work and commissions. Golightly perceives design as a tool to motivate, encourage and initiate forward thinking. Most recent works have included The Chernobyl Library (Slavutych, Ukraine) and commissioned Associate Artist, exploring Life Story Work (South Shields).
With a predominantly fine art based practice, Vicky Holbrough explores techniques such as sculpture, printmaking and drawing through participatory projects, commissions and residencies. These have included several public art commissions in Darlington and County Durham. She is a co-founder /director of artist-led arts organisation Navigator North - developing new spaces for artists to create and show work, as well as initiating and curating projects, artist commissions, exhibitions and public events across Tees Valley and County Durham.