For this exhibition 5 artists were given access to Leeds Libraries' archive of cookery and household management books and tasked with creating work in response to this subject matter. When reading these books I was struck by how beautiful but also how detailed and ingenious they were, much like the women who would have read them.
I knew I couldn't make work about women in Victorian Britain without commenting on women's place in society during that time. But like everything the situation was a lot more complicated than the dominant narrative of women universally being subjugated, second class citizens. So the three pieces I made reflected the different lives that women could and still do create from similar opportunities and limitations. I wanted them to look like Victorian cameos, with a scene within them that showed the inner life of the women displayed.
I also corresponded each piece to a specific recipe that was marked as a Yorkshire dish in the books I used as my source material.
The proceeds from all the work go to Leeds Libraries and a network of food charities across Leeds. Sales from my work will benefit The Real Junk Food Project.
'Addition' shows a woman taking a well-trodden path of motherhood and housemaking (in this case represented by an earlier piece of work from a different project that I had discarded) and creating something new and special out of it. Rhubarb is an ingredient that is special in our family as my own mother has grown it since I was little and rhubarb crumble always makes me think of her. So I was determined to make sure at least one of these pieces had rhubarb in it!
'Division / Multiplication' is about how two almost identical people (here conjoined, or as they were then called, Siamese twins) can take the same ingredients in life and make completely different things from them. I wanted to reflect the more complicated story of women's place in society and their contentment with that.
'Subtraction' is a more negative outlook, about how for women no matter the success they made of their own opportunities, they would never be included in the realm of men's. Interestingly Solomon Gundy is more famous as a Jamaican dish, but in a book I found it was described as a famous Yorkshire dish, which could hint at the history of immigration into the area.