11 November 2012

Lingerie Sunday: Mimi Smith

For this week I thought I'd highlight a really cool artist I've actually been reading about in class. Mimi Smith! Frieze Magazine has a good bio on her work.

Mimi Smith. Timelines Installation (Shoes, Underpants, Undershirts), 1999–2005. Source
Smith was part of the Feminist Art Movement which began in earnest in the 1970's. Most of my favorite artists emerged from that period, Smith is a new favorite but definitely a big one because all of her work deals with the relationship between identity of Women v.s what they wear. It's all very snarky and deals with the cult of domesticity and capitalism and public/private and all these feminist catchphrases and Big Things to Care About. I could wax on and on about these things, but I'm not up for writing an essay. This is just me (hopefully eloquently) fangirling an artist I admire. Anyway.

Mimi Smith. Steel Wool Peignoir, 1966–1966. Source.
I'm very amused by this steel wool peignoir- peignoirs are like old school lingerie nightgown bathrobe situations, you know, like the ones Golden Era movie stars wear-. This is rad because it looks absolutely beautiful and luxurious but it's made of steel wool. It's so snarky and a nice commentary on the reality of domestic labor and the expectations surrounding women.

 Besides that piece though, she did a series called Protectors Against Illness, which is the main reason I'm obsessed with her. In the 1990's, Smith had breast cancer and did this series. The reason why I'm highlighting her on Lingerie Sunday is because of her "Tamoxifan Bra". Tamoxifan is the medication given to women who have had breast cancer; it is a remission drug. The bra is incredibly pretty, but what is unexpected is that it's decorated with Tamoxifan pills.

Protector Against Illness: Red Tamoxifen Bra, 1997, nylon, lace, tamoxifen pills, satin hanger, 16 x 15 inches. Source. Second image is a collection spanning 1993-197, fabrics, pills, vitamins, surgical masks, ribbon, lace, hangers.

 Long-time readers will know that I have health problems and I have what I call chronic sick people humor. I just like things that talk about pills in a smart and funny way that isn't your average "blah we're all on drugs fuck medication it's capitalists way of enslaving the citizens!!11" discourse. For me, medication is a daily and important part of my life and Mimi's way of combining 'chronic sick people humor' with clothing and material identity really hits close to home for me. I like the discussion she opens up about illness, and protection, and luxury and necessity through pretty frilly things like underwear. I relate to it. It complicates things you might not ordinarily think about.

Protector Against Illness: Black Tamoxifen Bra, 1996, nylon, lace, tamoxifen pills, acrylic paint, satin hanger, 16 x 15 inches. Source.

This edition of LS doesn't really deal with purchasable lingerie which I think people were expecting, but I'm not one to care about other people's expectations. Like I said in my last LS post -- lingerie is as much a method of self care to me as it is a category of clothing. I admire what Mimi did in response to her cancer -- when life hands you some deep shit, you make the most of it. And she did! And it's beautiful.