Since the early 1990s, Folkestad has used traditional home life as a starting point for her meticulously crafted installations. One of her gifts is the ability to express feminist ideas without viewers even noticing, leaving them to just enjoy the purely visual attributes that are also part and parcel of her work. One reason it's easy to ignore Folkestad's messages is that she's intentionally ambiguous. "My installations are akin to riddles," she writes in her artist's statement. "I give hints as to content, but much is left to viewer interpretation."
Folkestad's first exhibit at Sandy Carson comprises a multi-part installation that seemingly comments on the nature of domestic life, in particular the needle crafts. Historically, needlework is associated with women and thus is a favorite topic for feminist artists such as Folkestad (though she has definitely downplayed that aspect of her work for this show).
The installation unfolds with a group of whimsical tripod stands made of wrought iron, each topped with threaded spindles (one of which is shown above). The stands, roughly the size of people, have been conceived as fancy tables, and their anthropomorphism is underscored by their posture, since the "tables" lean in one direction or another. The other reference to humanity is those threaded spindles, which suggest labor, particularly women's work. Together these elements bring up the world of the home.
There's a quiet but profound shift in content as viewers enter the conference room. In this section, which is almost completely separate from the first part, domestic life is supplanted by the image of the sweatshop. Both the wall and the floor support a mechanical weaving machine that is fully operational and very noisy. Additionally, in the middle of the room is a cluster -- some on concrete pedestals -- of industrial-looking, non-kinetic small spindles.
Whatever it means, the fascinating and thoughtful Virginia Folkestad: Isthmus/go-between closes on October 24.