For ‘The Marriage’ (below), I wanted to explore what marriage really means in the 21st century. Is it even relevant and important for today’s generation? I really like using visually pleasing backdrops for my work, I tend to lean more towards holographic or iridescent materials as multiple colours are produced when light hits the surface. When I was younger I used to always put Haribo rings on my wedding ring finger so I thought it would be interesting to explore this idea further and replace traditional, hard-wearing rings with an easily destructive object. I wasn’t intentionally trying to mock the meaning of marriage, but I suppose in a way, this particular piece of work does.
I didn’t set out to use a certain age group as my subject, I mainly use my mum and dad in my work as they’re totally comfortable being featured in the type of work that I produce. I wanted ‘The Marriage’ to explore the idea of “finding a partner, settling down, getting married and having children” that seemingly everyone is expected to do in their mid-twenties, and how anyone, of any age group, can get married at any point in their life if they so choose.
I’ve always really liked the dainty, floral, girly layout of stereotypical wedding invitations, and I thought it would be fun to take this as inspiration but alter the wedding invite to suit those couples who secretly don’t like the person that they’re marrying. This is what led me to producing my other marriage orientated work, ‘Proposal for a Wedding Invitation’. These individuals may just be marrying someone to please their family members and friends or in an attempt to have some kind of meaning or purpose in their life, someone to come home to every day. Not everyone is ready for marriage in their mid-twenties and some people are never ready, it’s ridiculous to assume that everyone needs to settle down at some point in their life. What does the phrase “settling down” even mean anyway? To me it conjures up an image of someone sacrificing their own enjoyment and aspirations and hopes for themselves as an individual in order to fit in with the stereotypical assumptions of society. And if someone is living a wild, crazy lifestyle that maybe you don’t approve of, it’s not your place to criticize them or tell them that they “need to settle down”.
Until writing this week’s post, I’d never really come across any artwork that centers around marriage. I feel that this piece, ‘Marriage Bed’ by Edwina Sandys (above) is a very poignant depiction of marriage and the reality of it. The half and half effect suggests a sense of compromise, which is the reality of most relationships. While the roses portray the loving, tender side of relationships and almost even allude to the idea of sex and fertility, the nails act as a metaphor for the difficulties that married or non-married couples face; arguments, the refusal to compromise or possibly even affairs.
Another piece of work I found was ‘The Room’, a piece of video art and performance by artist Amal Kenawy. Like ‘Marriage Bed’, ‘The Room’ also uses delicate objects which then become threatening, transforming the ideal into disaster. During the performance, the video piece shows the artist sewing tiny beads and a paper rose on to a beating heart whilst wearing lace gloves. All of these objects are heavily symbolic; the hand embellishment that is present in the production of some wedding dresses, the rose symbolizing the bouquets that some brides hold, the beating heart portraying the love for their partner and the lace: a common wedding dress material. Alongside the video piece, the artist is sitting on a stool, preparing a wedding dress. At the end of the performance, the wedding dress is set on fire. As the wedding dress goes up in flames, the video piece is turned off and the music stops, leaving the audience to watch the dress burn. This acts as a very realistic depiction of the reality of marriage, and marriages that don’t work out, just like ‘Marriage Bed’.
So, what really is the importance of “the big day”? I never thought about marriage when I was younger, but some of my friends were passionate about it. They always planned it; the colour schemes, the setting and the requirements for the person that they intended to marry. Recently I’ve noticed that this planning is still present in some people my age and those older than me. Society tells girls and young women that marriage is something that they must look forward to and plan for, almost as if remaining single or in a long-term relationship is completely out of the question.
Obviously I’m not criticizing marriage or preaching “Marriage is wrong! No one should ever get married!” It’s an individual’s own choice. Some people choose to get married, as they feel that it secures their relationship or just because they love the idea of having a really special day that’s purely about themselves and their partner. Others don’t see marriage as necessary. They’re comfortable just being in a long-term relationship. Personally, I don’t have the drive to get married, but I’ve not got the mindset where I’m absolutely determined to only be in a long-term relationship. I feel indifferent towards it. I’m only nineteen so I might end up becoming more enthusiastic towards marriage when I’m older, but currently I don’t see the importance or necessity of it in my own personal life or future.