Sally Smart

South Australia, Australia born 1960

Spider Artist (sew me) 1989 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil and enamel on canvas

Dimensions: 188.0 h x 132.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1989
Accession No: NGA 89.1516
Image rights: © Courtesy of the artist
  • Spider artist (sew me) is a painting belonging to the series titled X-ray vanitas, made in Melbourne in 1988–90.

    This work referenced historical and contemporary persons as models to investigate notions of the ways feminine identity has been constructed. The paintings used the portrait genre as a model with literal reference to size, pose and installation.

    Spider artist (sew me) developed from ideas about Emily Dickinson and her poetry. I was interested in the metaphor Dickinson used to describe herself, a ‘literary seamstress’, stitching words together to create meaning in her poetry, and her construction of her persona around the white dress. For Dickinson, the spider artist stratagem is the paradigm of the female artist: lone, private, isolated, secret; this, of course, is the fable of modernist art, which includes the luring desire of the gaze by just this making-art performance.

    This painting presents an image of a particular single female figure, who is sewing fragments of clothing onto her body into a fractured unified self; although the various garments indicate fragmentary details of identities.

    Sally Smart 2002

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002