OTHER WORK: Pomegranates

The pomegranate transcends time, culture and religion. A symbol, it expresses the persistence of life, fertility and regeneration. Pomegranates uses this fruit as a metaphor for female identity.

The EphEmera exhibition at Gasp Gallery centered on the pomegranate.

Wedding Dress addresses the construct of marriage. It juxtaposes the Western tradition of a white gown and the age-old purpose of marriage, procreation. Wedding Dress is all the more pertinent in today’s society as unmarried, pregnant women choose not only to wed while pregnant but also to flaunt it.

The dress is fashioned from handmade paper, a material as ephemeral as the social construct. It is designed as maternity wear and thereby links ritual and purpose. Lined with red silk, folds at center-front allude to the female anatomy. Forty paper casts of pomegranates, a symbolic number in itself, bulge forward in pregnant form. During the months it is in season, real fruit substitutes for these ghosts.

Replication (Designer Child) offers a candy counter view of choices and permutations possible in the genetic make-up of one’s offspring.

The Human Genome Project has identified no fewer than 16,000 genes on 320 markers. Replication reduces this to 320 plaster casts of pomegranates on a simplified grid of the human gene map. Made from natural materials and organic in form, the casts are coated in high gloss, synthetic white paint. Each is identified with a specific band on a chromosome. Installed on a hospital-white wall, it appears clinical and aseptic.

A medical cart containing additional casts stands alongside. Its presence challenges the viewer to decide whether or not to participate in defining the makeup of one’s offspring. It highlights the desire to preserve and control one’s identity and progeny.

1671-1961 records nine generations of female ancestors in my family. It ends with me. The work consists of 72 abstracted silhouettes of pomegranates laminated onto sheets of handmade paper. Like certificates, the sheets bear the names of my forebears and, when known, their year of birth. The pomegranate identifies them as female; its vessel-like shape references the womb. Like linens, the sheets have been washed, dried and ironed. Some have been embroidered. Alight from the wall, they are like leaves in the wind.

Fertilitas, 2005

With changing gender roles in recent generations, women have put off parenting in favor of work and other personal pursuits. They do so with the understanding that the odds of conceiving decrease, despite the science and technology available to them.

Fertilitas is a three-dimensional, house-shaped shrine to Fertility. It chronicles the passage of fertility through select use of materials and images. Paintings on its doors reference medieval paintings of the seasons. They flank an enshrined pomegranate that shall shrivel. Gilded in silver, the icon will tarnish and blacken.

The Pom, 2008

These three drawings reference stages of fertility. Each draws respectively on the idea of buds, seeds and shells while making allusions to the female anatomy. Layers of hand-cut vellum and colored gel are combined with ink and pencil drawings. The translucency of the materials underscores the ephemeral nature of our being.

The Swing, 2005

A social commentary, this mixed-media installation references the 18th c. painting by Jean-Honore Fragonard. It is an in-your-face satire, reducing the story to sexual desire and regeneration.

© 2016 Helga Felleisen

Share on Facebook
Share on Google+
Follow on Instagram
Share on LinkedIn
Pin It on Pinterest