Friday, June 4, 2010

Vintage Apron Strings

Perker Maestá, Oil on Linen, 36" x 60", ©2008 Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Available on ArtQuiver

Kitchen Saint, Oil on Paper, 24" x 72", ©2010 Jennie Traill Schaeffer
(unframed), available soon through ArtQuiver

I've become very engaged in the topic of the apron and have been contemplating its role in my life as well as its resurgence in popularity. The apron is a natural shift in focus for me considering my interest in kitchen appliances and woman's roles. Since my husband's grandmother passed away several years ago, I've been given numerous aprons from my family and friends. It was only in 2008 when the apron first entered into my work as a symbolic backdrop in one of my "maesta" pieces. Now it's taking up more weight.

As I was painting the two most recent works (the "apron strings" below), I stumbled upon a blog titled "Return of the Apron" by blogger, Lisa Bramen of's "Food and Think" blog. She's just embarking on marriage and writes about her own interest in aprons and what it means for a feminist to don a "stereotypical symbol of wifedom." She asks the question, "should feminists be concerned that one of the most powerful symbols of female domesticity and, by extension, sexism, has made a comeback?"

Her article was in response to a Huffington Post blog by Kristen Leigh Painter who, in turn had criticized the tone of a Denver Post article entitled, "Sassy, Sexy Aprons Shrug Off Sexism." I recommend you read all three.

These women have verbalized my thoughts on apron-wearing and even deeper, my struggles, conflicts and desires to be a good wife, mom, who has a successful business as an artist. I'm part of Generation X and we women were raised with the idea that we could be anything and everything.

I think the resurgence of the apron is a fashion statement, it's a symbol of our interests in reclaiming the kitchen and domesticity while also having our careers and using our minds. While it's all very conflicted and complicated, it's an amazing experience.

Pink Apron Composition #1, 12" x 36" (triptych), Oil on Canvas, ©2010 Jennie Traill Schaeffer
$749, unframed

Getting back to my paintings, I've started exploring these ideas with the aprons in my studio. I'm at the very beginning stages of getting my visual thoughts together on the subject. The first work, Pink Apron Composition #1, was just to get my brush wet and explore the subject compositionally. The apron curtains my studio window, functioning for decoration, and maybe a bit of irony by hanging an apron which would have been used to prance around, greeting guests and passing hors d' oeuvres.

Apron Strings #1, Oil on Canvas, 5" x 7", ©2010 Jennie Traill Schaeffer
$125, unframed

Apron Strings #2, Oil on Canvas, 5" x 7" ©2010 Jennie Traill Schaeffer
$125, unframed

The above two paintings, were quick studies, thinking about the idea of "apron strings." I've borrowed a mannequin from a local artist and am interested in the idea of the stereotype of the apron. From my point of view as a young wife, mother, career woman in the 21st century, the apron is tied with contradictions. However, these show only one view of the apron - as an objectifier, as a garment that binds women's roles. I painted the mannequin in flesh tones, without any reference to a personality. The focus is on the ribbon, the back of the apron. The phrase "the ties that bind" come to mind. Though there is still a little bit of nostalgia in the paintings.

This is just the beginning of my exploration of the apron and hope to get into the studio soon to delve deeper.


Martha C. Hall said...

I'm going to read all 3 articles you mention. Love what you're doing with the aprons. Can't wait to compare notes!

Jennie Traill Schaeffer said...

I've read them a few times and have printed them out - lots of great material!