Gail Rothschild

Earth Women

1992–1993


Mixed media installation/performance

One enters this installation through a maze of tall hanging panels, narrow sheets of stainless steel hung on cables. On each panel is a two-dimensional image of an elongated female figure created with dark earth. Earth and steel formulate an interrelationship that represents the polarities of nature/industry, male/female.

Two sections of the installation contain life-sized figures of hanging women. The figures are ambiguous. They are apparently strung up by the hands and yet there are no hands. Their feet dangle just above earth mounds and yet they have no feet. There is some implied torment, yet the figures seem calm, powerful, implacable as the earth they are made of. In one section the figures are seen as two-dimensional representations, in the other they are fully developed sculptures.

In the inner chamber five figures hang from the ceiling corresponding to the two dimensional images on the steel panels. These figures seem to be made entirely of solid earth. They are pregnant bodies that appear heavy, occupying space in a way the two-dimensional images on steel can not. The figures dangle so that their feet touch the apex of breast shaped mounds of soil. Symbolically, the female is disempowered by breaking her bond with the earth, nature.

On the walls of the inner chamber are blue-line grids. In the center of each box formulated by the grids an earth stained hand print is placed. These prints are the result of a ritual act: mixing water with earth and repeatedly pressing hand marks within the squares of the grids. The hand prints contradict the hanging figures' apparent helplessness. In the heart of the installation, despite the physical restraint as portrayed by the suspended figures, there is a feeling of spiritual transcendence and empowerment.

Earth Women, 1993
Painted Bride, Philadelphia, PA

Earth Women, 1993
Painted Bride, Philadelphia, PA

Earth Women, 1992
Medea Material by Heiner Muller, Charas, NYC

Earth Women, 1993
Painted Bride, Philadelphia, PA

Earth Women, 1992
Medea Material by Heiner Muller, Charas, NYC

Earth Women, 1992
Medea Material by Heiner Muller, Charas, NYC

Earth Women, 1992
Medea Material by Heiner Muller, Charas, NYC