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Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité


This project began last summer when I visited Mass MOCA to see Anselm Kiefer's Women of the French Revolution installation. Using images from a November 2019 exhibition of my works, as well as a newly embroidered tapestry based on "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité," three ideals that appeared during the French Revolution, I share my fascination with this period of French history from a feminist perspective.  I must also acknowledge the influence of Krzysztof Kieślowski's films: Red, White, Blue - Three Colours trilogy (1990s). The flags of both France and the US share red, white, and blue and maybe on a good day, we share (as allies) not just the colors, but the ideals of liberty, equality and brotherhood/sisterhood .


Detail of my Tricolor Tapestry (Mme Roland)


Women of the Revolution, an installation (1992/2013) by German artist Anselm Kiefer, became embedded in my memory after visiting Mass MOCA in July 2019. The twenty lead beds, with scraps of paper tacked on the wall above each bed were inked with women’s names. What was Kiefer memorializing? I discovered that Jules Michelet’s 1854 study Les Femmes de la Revolution was Kiefer’s inspiration. Lest we forget the brave women who died for the radical idea of replacing the monarchy with a democracy, Kiefer’s installation suggests they live on in values we continue to cherish today. 


I chose three women to study:  Madame de Genlis, Madame Roland and Mademoiselle Corday. I combined Public Domain images of them with my own photos of Kiefer’s installation. I also created superimposed images from Jacques Louis-David’s The Death of Marat and Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People because these paintings by male artists are easily recognizable to most art lovers, however, the names of the women are not. This pairing of images addresses the veiled history of the women of the French Revolution. Had Marat’s Jacobins been less eager to wipe out the aristocracy (Girondins), the French people could have avoided senseless mass murders  (including both Roland and Corday) that were enacted in a mad rush to establish “liberty, equality and fraternity.”

Anselm Kiefer

The Women of the Revolution (Les Femmes de la Révolution), 1992

Lead beds, photograph on lead

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