The University of Brighton’s Vanessa Marr says it was a surprise when her work was featured on Channel 4’s Grayson’s Art Club – a self-portrait stitched into a duster.
A huge fan of contemporary artist Grayson Perry, Vanessa, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Media, submitted her work which was written for a chapter called ‘The Domestic Academic’ as part of a book on autoethnography due to be published later this year.
As part of her practice-based research, Vanessa has asked women to embroider their domestic perspectives on a duster since 2014 – a call she’s now repeating, with the focus switching to experiences during the coronavirus lockdown.
To create the self-portrait, Vanessa first drew the outline before tracing and overlaying the drawings on to the duster using a lightbox and fabric pen. The three faces represent the three different versions of herself: care-giver and nurturer for students and family, frustration at not having enough time or space to get things done and her more personal face – one which is overwhelmed by the others.
Appearing on the TV show came as a surprise: “I didn’t hear anything back so I assumed I’d been unsuccessful. The scheduled showing was postponed and I didn’t know when it would be shown – then I was actually in the bath when my phone suddenly got very busy with friends texting me to say they’d seen my work on TV!
“I quickly rang my mum and the whole family sat down together to watch the show on C4+1”.
Drawing on the call for more women to share their experiences of the COVID-19 restrictions, Vanessa said: “Domesticity for me is both a pleasure and a pain; I’m a nurturer at heart but I miss the time for me and there is definitely an increased workload.”
“Home has become a space to create and even more than usual, for I refer to the home often in my academic work, the space from which to contemplate, to be creative and to be grateful for keeping safe and well.”