Bride Fight was originally inspired by two wedding gowns that I encountered in a Junior League thrift store. Ironically, it was on a weekend trip for a wedding. The two hung in an animated herd on a special rack—almost beckoning to be taken to the church for another round.
Their sheer volume made me wonder how many stadiums it would take to hold all of the cast-off bridal gowns in this country. There must be multiple landfills’ worth of accumulated tulle, organza, silk and polyester.
These particular gowns struck me as formal and timeless, and then I began to wonder about the history of the white gown and where that notion of being a princess for a day really came from. I did some research and found that it began with Queen Victoria. Victorian in origin—that makes sense.
Apparently, Queen Victoria thought that every woman should be dressed like a queen for her wedding day in order to mark the occasion. The dress of white fabric was not chosen for its symbolism of purity, but rather for its extravagance. White fabric was very difficult to find, pay for and impossible to clean. So, therefore, it was a luxury item that one would only wear once.
Then, I really began to question the whole bridal get-up. What is it about this relatively short-lived tradition that women in this day and age would still want to hang on to? Why, in this country, would people want to dress up like queens? To me, the puffy white gown represents the symbolic placenta being broken in public. I do not see the terms of marriage as problematic and the contracts of partnership have obviously been updated since the Victorian era, so it is curious to me that so many women still cling to this tradition.
When I saw the lonesome dresses, I couldn’t wait to start shredding this loaded metaphor —but which one to get? I was already working on a piece with two fighting cat skeletons suspended in a cage and so it dawned on me; I should get two dresses and have them shred each other up.
In comparison to my previous series, “Exploding Couture,” the individual dresses appear to explode from the force of a single blast, whereas these two actually assist in each other’s undoing. In this stop-action fight sequence, one glove grabs at a hairpiece, the other yanks the pearl necklace and a shoe is launched toward the other’s tiara.
This suspended animation of aggressive accessories is a humorous way to question the tropes of bridal garb. These bridal garments are designed to be looked at. So, I thought, “Let’s analyze their over-determined significance.”
For me, Bride Fight is symbolic of Feminism’s active state of schizophrenia as it is played out via consumer culture. The image of women fighting each other is ultimately a metaphor for fighting with oneself. As women have more freedom to create their own identity, there is also an anxiety about how to represent oneself to begin with.
Like any gender construct, a bridal ensemble is just a costume, not an identity. But, if one chooses to wear this traditional costume, what does this really signify? I beleve there is a fear of disrupting familial expectations and some serious pressure from the commercial bridal industry. Despite the short history of this bridal regalia, it holds immense power as an almost undisputed convention.
In Bride Fight, I also use heavy-duty fishing tackle and hardware to acknowledge the fortress-like nature of this convention. It requires oversized hardware to deconstruct these tropes metaphorically. The fishing tackle rigging functions to suspend and to animate the ensemble as well as to play on how the donning of a festive gown functions much like the strategy of using a fancy lure to attract a good catch.
In constructing the installation, I worked on the overall composition as a three- dimensional drawing. The thick lines of monofilament stretch the implied figures taught and anchor them to the floor and ceiling. I try to place the lines at angles so that they appear to extend the implied velocity of hurling objects and torn fabric. The tulle and other diaphanous materials that compose the gowns became a visual reference to a puff of smoke in an explosion.
In overstating the method of the piece’s construction, I hope to make visible the way in which the deconstruction of these symbols is an act of proactive and positive creation.
Blowing up these stereotypes enables a release from them.
Humorously, I am told that the disarray of bridal accessories in this tableau comes closer to the actual bridal experience than the idealized expectation.