Laura Vickerson

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Chateau Mathieu

Chateau Mathieu Project

Chateau Mathieu, a private residence in Normandy, France was built in the latter part of the 18th century.  In June of 2009, I and five other colleagues had the opportunity to work at the chateau in a two-week experimental residency to research and create new contemporary artworks that responded directly to the history of the site.

My particular interest was in the matrilineal legacy of the chateau itself. I wanted to explore ideas of the private and public as they applied to women during the Victorian era. Within wealthy families, women were, for the most part, relegated to the private sphere of the home where they spent their time embroidering in the sitting room and entertaining guests at the piano. At the same time, their poor rural counterparts were moving to the city and becoming part of the public workforce instigated by mechanization, mass production and the industrial revolution.  Through the use of embroidery as well as the use of rich fabrics referencing the opulent domestic interiors of these “ladies of leisure”it was my intention to speak to these women’s isolation, lack of agency and stifled creativity through subversive means.  I created pieces to specifically install in various locations in the chateau.  As well, over the course of the residency I created a number of site-specific works on the grounds of the chateau that I sometimes refer to as “exterior decorating”.  I have presented these experimental works here in the context of various chateau locations.

A collaborative bookwork based on this residency is currently in progress and a culminating exhibition will be presented at the Esplanade Art Gallery in Medicine Hat, Alberta in the fall of 2012.