Sherril Jennings' Ladies a Plate installation combines seemingly incongruent fragments from the past and integrates them into the present. Created over the course of a year, the 500 unique handmade 'ladies' in this installation are each posed distinctively.
The title of the installation refers to the tradition of asking ladies to bring a plate as a form of admission to events, a convention Jennings experienced as a teacher living in Southland in 1970 when attending monthly town hall dances. Ladies a Plate subverts this tradition, producing a collective statement of 'ladies' wearing 21st century fashion and made with some decidedly un-ladylike discarded and scavenged materials.
Through the repurposing of remnants which provide the primary material for Ladies a Plate, disparate parts have been unified, creating an assemblage of women reflecting past generations. To construct this community of 'ladies' Jennings has resourcefully combined lace, wool and cloth with discarded industrial and technological objects such as washers, doorknobs, printer heads and volume controls. Using the time-honoured traditional techniques of stitching, crochet, embroidery and knitting passed on to her by her mother, a milliner, Jennings pays tribute to past generations of women and their inventive skills for creating something new with the limited resources they had on hand.
While many of the 'ladies' are imagined individuals, well-known figures such as women's suffrage movement leader Kate Sheppard are present together with Jennings herself and her mother, whose dress is fashioned from her 1960 Christmas cake recipe transferred onto calico.
An insight into our collective past, Ladies a Plate elicits a sense of familiarity and an emotional response through the recognition of the cannibalised parts. "The purpose for the viewer is to evoke a memory and to identify with the personality of the women," Jennings states. "To bring a chuckle to the lips where the detail is observed and the laughter that ensues in recognising the transformation of objects into women."
- Laura Howard
Sherril Jennings is a Napier based artist.