New York artist Tamar Stone addresses women's body images as viewed through historical, social, and feminist lenses in a one-of-a-kind book acquired recently by the Duke Libraries' Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture.
The Untitled Pink Corset Book challenges the traditional definition of a book; it is made from old corsets that the artist found on eBay. The corsets are sewn together in layers, with text embroidered between the ribs of each garment.
The narrative "unfolds" as each internal section is untied and opened, one after another. This visually arresting book entices the reader to decipher its metaphors and consider its deeper meaning.
Stone has a personal connection to her subject: She suffered from scoliosis as a child and had to wear a corset-like brace for many years.
She saw a similarity between the use of the brace to bind and reform her body and the use of corsets in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries to confine and mold women's figures.
In The Untitled Pink Corset Book, Stone uses texts from early advertisements and etiquette books, as well as the accounts of scoliosis patients, to draw parallels between the physical restrictions imposed on women's bodies and the social limitations placed on women's lives. In the process, she gives the history itself new meaning and shape. Untying the corsets to read the text opens, unbinds, and frees what is inside. The artist empowers the reader to become a participant in the process.
The Untitled Pink Corset Book is an important addition to the Bingham Center's collections and an example of the center's documentation of the many dimensions of women's history, from domestic culture to body image and feminist politics, all of which are visible in Stone's art.
The Untitled Pink Corset Book
August 1, 2006