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Frances Dorsey. Dragon's Teeth
1994. Pieced fabric, dyes, resists, photo-silkscreen. 2.7m x 3.96m x 8cm. MSVU collection. Purchase, 1999.
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(b. 1948 Tuscaloosa, AL; lives in Portuguese Cove, NS)
Dragons’ Teeth 1994
pieced fabric with dyes, pigments, discharge, photo-silkscreen, resists
270 x 396 cm
Purchased with funds from the 125th Anniversary Fund, matched by the Canada Council Acquisitions Assistance
Mount Saint Vincent University Collection
Dragon’s Teeth represents the artist’s response to the Persian Gulf War and her late father’s recollection of his experiences in World War II. The silkscreened photographs portray him with his mortar square companions. Yet the life-size soldiers silhouetted as cut outs might evoke any of the numerous conflicts in recent memory.
Passages from John Dorsey’s war journal are reproduced in silkscreen on a resist-dyed ground of crosses in the upper part of the work. While this is part of my father’s story, writes Dorsey, it is also my story, and that of many of my peers, growing up with moody, silent men who jumped at loud sounds, were cynical and bitter, would not speak of the war, and who wrestled with secret demons for fifty years. Using that ‘women’s medium,’ cloth, I question what war does to people, to families, and to societies.
Dorsey’s use of distressed, pieced-together cloth—a pictorial version of the patchwork of the patchwork quilt—offers a pointed critique of the tradition of history painting, in which large paintings on canvas glorify battle. Positioning herself in relation to this ideological terrain, she notes that, My family’s roots are in the Southern US, where the War Between the States was ever present—it was a defeated country. Battles were fought on your turf, your ancestors died defending their land. War was associated with courage and the protection of what was precious.
Frances Dorsey teaches at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University.
From Moral Fibre, by I. Jenkner
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