A Room of One’s Own

Laurel Garcia Colvin

Laurel Garcia Colvin has a room of her own at ArtsWestchester – both literally and figuratively.  It is a blue and white girly confection fit for a princess, with wallpaper and fabric that mimic traditional toile patterns. The installation is presented as one of the provocative works of art in an exhibition entitled SHE: Deconstructing Female Identity at ArtsWestchester. Toile fabric usually has a repeated pattern on a white background, generally a scene of regal ladies and gentlemen in leisurely pursuits. Garcia Colvin has cleverly reinvented the toile pattern with contemporary scenes referencing feminist activities and achievements.

In watching this installation evolve, I was reminded of the essay in which Virginia Woolf, in 1929, proclaimed: “Give her a room of her own and five hundred a year, let her speak her mind… and she will write a better book one of these days.” The implication of course is that a woman, given her own space and money and freed of the shackles imposed by men, can be accomplished in her own right. Garcia Colvin proves this; she entices you into her lair, and before you realize it, she confronts you with thousands of years of marginalization of women. Echoed in this work is Woolf’s message that while a woman has been for centuries idealized in fiction, “in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words and profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read; scarcely spell; and was the property of her husband.”  So, who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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