Comfort/Discomfort: Allyson Mitchell's Queer Re-Crafting of the Home, the Museum, and the Nation
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Through an exploration of Toronto-based artist Allyson Mitchell’s craft-art, this thesis investigates the complexities surrounding the functions and roles of public and private spaces; particularly the home and the fine art museum within Canadian society. I propose a reading of Mitchell’s art practice, activism, scholarship, and curatorial activities that focuses on a queering of both private domestic space and public social space through a conflation of the two. Mitchell’s textile installations make intimate and cozy the otherwise impersonal space of the public art museum, while Mitchell queers the heteronormative space of the family home by turning it into a public art institution, an archive and a classroom. Mitchell’s bright textile enclosures, "Hungry Purse: The Vagina Dentata in Late Capitalism" and "Menstrual Hut, Sweet Menstrual Hut," for example, visibly disrupt the sanitized and impersonal space of the art museum, disrupting the dominant ideological framework that privileges normative assumptions of sexuality and sexual identity, and exclusionary hierarchies of class, able-bodiedness and access. While Mitchell’s theatrical textile installation, "Ladies Sasquatch," has predominantly been theorized as a queer critique of the myths of femininity, gender, sexuality, and the detrimental treatment of the female body within popular media; I present a reading of "Ladies Sasquatch" as a radical decolonizing spectacle that has the potential to interrupt larger nationalistic and colonial narratives reproduced by museums. Through these powerful interventions in public and private space, I suggest that Mitchell’s crafty installations offer playful acts of resistance that create counter narratives which function to decolonize our physical, psychic and emotional space, while also creating new imaginings that undermine the status quo.