PRESSING ON: Homage to Hannah More
Pages of Hannah More's writings* are cut, scorched, woven and layered with textiles, thread, lace, tacks and sandpaper. Antique “sad” (solid) irons convey the stories, presented singly or installed as multiples, evoking the tactile, experiential memory of a domestic labor force. The sad irons represent the erstwhile servitude of those pressing - the 'herstories' of those laboring under the demands for pressed garments and linens, to suit class distinctions and societal expectations. Garments carefully and repetitively manipulated, aided by the parallel tasks of mending, sewing and primping, were ultimately to be transformed by the applied and consistent heat and pressure.
Hannah More (1745 – 1833) was an abolitionist, poet, social reformer, philanthropist, feminist, writer. More's fierce convictions were moral, social and political. Writing was an influential tool which she masterfully utilized throughout her life. Her writings and benevolence strongly influenced the public mind and social character of her day. More's life-long overriding cause was galvanizing women to act not as domestic ornaments, but as thinking, engaged and responsible beings. She devoted herself to educating and helping the poor, establishing over sixteen charitable schools. Hannah helped give the abolition movement a public voice with her writings. Publishing and collaborating with William Wilberforce, an outspoken member of Parliament, she remained active in the anti-slavery movement her entire life. Her poem Slavery published in 1788 coincided with the first parliamentary debate on slave trade. More wrote The Sorrows of Yamba (or The Negro Woman's Lamentation) in 1795. Dying in September of 1833, she lived just long enough to see slavery abolished in the British Empire. Awareness of the persistent and dedicated work of individuals such as Hannah More in the 18th C., illustrates not only the depth and density of deep seated issues, but also serves to inform us of the progression within our culture and inspires us to continue to raise one's voice to inequality and injustice.
*PRESSING ON takes physical, material, and intellectual inspiration from Hannah More's An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World: By One of the Laity, London, 1791. Published anonymously, it was one of the most widely read books of the day.
Born in Boston, Kunstadt received a BFA, Hartford Art School, Hartford, CT and continued with postgraduate studies at Akademie der Bildenen Künste, Munich, Germany. Five years ago she moved to the Hudson Valley, having lived 35 years in NYC. As a collagist, painter, book arts and fiber artist, she often invokes a metaphysical quality of contemplation and timelessness. By deconstructing paper and text, recent works reference the material of books, combined with artifacts and focus on the personal in layered histories. Kunstadt's works on/of paper are widely exhibited throughout the U.S. Regionally, a solo exhibition - Carole Kunstadt: PRESSING ON at WAAM, Woodstock, NY; in WORD 2016, Hudson Valley MOCA, Peekskill, NY; Books Undone: altered books in contemporary art, Penn College, Williamsport, PA; ArtsWestchester's Triennial 2018, White Plains, NY; and Paper, Rock Scissors at Five Points Gallery, Torrington, CT. The PBS/OFF BOOK Book Arts mini-documentary on progressive arts, features Kunstadt in the segment, Transforming the Sacred.