The title says a lot, as far as words go, to point in the direction of artist Evelyn Davis-Walker’s “House + Wife Revisited” installation currently at the Thompson Gallery of the Cambridge School of Weston. Better, since it is visual art, to go see it. Better yet to help install it as students will be, and probably are doing as I write.
Walker-Davis is a graphic artist using collage to make the point of feminine subservience as a societal norm promulgated vigorously during the Depression and war years of the last century — roughly from the 1930s through the 1950s.
Most important to a collage installation is that the point sticks. And so thoroughly does Davis-Walker stick to her point that no surface of the housewife’s armamentum escapes a pointed collage.
Eight milk bottles in their metal cage are propped on a column like a piece of sculpture, each one tattooed with the breathy exhalations of yet another “exalting” day of labor. Most striking to me was the face of a pert young and fit housewife smiling exuberantly under dancing script proclaiming, “Mother just wouldn’t believe me!”
Rubber gloves dangle trophy-like behind a glass frame imprinted with more exhortations of word and image to clean gorgeously, while glowing amorously.
Students will enjoy the opportunity of sticking preformed collages to the flawless white paint o f s leek, for their day, kitchen appliances: a 1940s-era refrigerator stands at attention waiting to keep the milk cold. The kitchen fire, on a gas range, waits to be baptized with suitable slogans appropriately prepared to stick and shine on factory-baked white paint over many meals — each one joyously delivered.
Of course, a real 1940s home with its various stations of working, eating, sleeping and bathing would appear grotesque if cheerleading images and exhortations were actually stuck fast all over every surface. And when this artistic metaphor surrounding the visitor occasionally blinks, it does turn grotesque — as though one is walking through a house o f horrors.
Actually, the real housewives who toed the line of this mid-century societal norm were not so much bombarded as subtly but relentlessly massaged through radio waves and newspaper messaging.
A pair of white prom gloves dangle seductively behind a shiny glass frame promising the earnest high school student of “home ec” all kinds of commercial help, improving each year, improving even as she reads, rapturously, the b lack and white newsprint embracing her prom glove’s immaculate wrist.