The tapestry of life by Alessia Belsito-Riera
A beautifully interwoven metaphor, Distaff presents a patchwork tapestry of artist Kate Stevens West’s matrilineality. At Bowen Gallery until the 12th of November, the paintings “bring together the women who wove my family”, Stevens West says.
A distaff is a traditional tool used for spinning flax, an important motif in Stevens West’s exhibition. Each work is painted on canvas and contains a stick or staff that alludes to this tool. The painter pays close attention to textiles in Distaff, as they were and are often “the outlet of the genius, engineering skills, problem-solving, and creativity of women”, she says.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, distaff also means ‘of or concerning women’ and refers to maternal lineage. In making the pieces for her exhibition, Stevens West has researched the lives of the women in her family, saying that she feels she has met them in a new way and made them visible. “They are no longer names on a page, or even names long forgotten. I have given them space in the world again,” she continues. “Our family stories tend to focus on the men and their work, but the women often had demanding roles too, their lives were just as rich and complex.”
“Women like these are the portal to our existence, and our country as it is today. The threads of tensions within our society can be traced closely at their lives.”
Stevens West believes it is important to see women in history and artwork “for what we are. Equal participants”.