Upon entering the Lisa Sette Gallery booth at Art Miami, one felt the sense of a hush. The strings of bonnets trailed to the floor. Beads of while pearls on the outside and the teeth of silver, gleaming pins on the inside. Floating more than five feet in the air, the white bonnets bore thousands of pins, like tiny swords, poised to pierce the wearer. For artist Angela Ellsworth, this is symbolic of the esoteric price of becoming a plural wife. Ellsworth channeled the history of her ancestors, pioneer Mormon plural wives, and created her Seer Bonnets out of corsage pins. The pins display the outward, spoken accolades and the inner psychological and emotional toll. Decorated with pristine, white pearls, they are objects made to pierce and to bind. Done so beautifully, the outside result makes one forget that the object is capable of creating a wound.
While my immediate interpretation was what I have described above, Ellsworth also meant for the seer bonnets to translate as representing the inner resilience and strength of women who needed to have an inner world to survive. In this instance, the pins speak to the pain that grew the need for an inner world. Ellsworth re-imagines the power of these women hidden in the underside of the bonnet to show the qualities of their secret lives: the pain as well has hidden power and strength.
See more work from Ellsworth’s Sister Wives series here: aellsworth.com
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