Arts & Culture

Narrett ’10 embroiders Brown with art as cultural criticism

Alum returns to campus to discuss artistic evolution, question sexuality, pop culture

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, March 3, 2016

Providence artist Sophia Narrett ’10 presented her embroidery work and her philosophy as an artist, which has evolved since her time at Brown. Her art often questions the portrayal of female sexuality in pop culture.

Sophia Narrett ’10 was living in her Providence apartment after graduation when she discovered the medium of embroidery. Since then, she has woven together many bold art pieces that take a close look at women’s sexuality and contemporary pop culture. Narrett came back to campus Wednesday to present her art and her artistic evolution.

Narrett’s journey as an artist has not been straightforward. As a freshman at Brown she was an oil painter, but by graduation she was more engaged by images and narratives than by the actual painting process, she said. She had difficulty making deliberate paint strokes, and her physical connection with her medium left her dissatisfied.

When she tried her hand at embroidery, she instantly felt a connection with the material. With thread, she said, “Every stitch contributes to the image.”

Her artistic shift intrigued the students attending her talk. “You see people doing their work, and (you wonder), ‘did they always have this style?’” said Keren Alfred ’18.

Narrett’s art is by no means limited to attention to minute details and bold colors. As an artist, she is primarily driven by narrative, and every one of her pieces is the visual representation of a story line, she said. The figures she stitches are characters whose life stories she has already spun and with whose hopes and dreams she is already acquainted. To her, it seems that her art is more than just frozen in an image. Her art pieces are stories, and she strives to give them life, she said.

Since narrative is the backbone of her work, Narrett said she must write a story or at least have a skeleton of a narrative before starting a project. She gives her narrative flesh by photoshopping a collage that she feels represents her story. She then projects the collage onto fabric and sketches figures to guide her hand. Finally, she uses embroidery to recreate her collage and transform it into a piece of art.

Narrett appreciates that her medium forces her to slow down and think about what she’s creating, she said. For example, as Narrett stitches scenes of sexual women, she faces a moral dilemma: Does portraying women in such a sexual fashion perpetuate the objectification of women in today’s society, or does her art constitute a criticism of this phenomenon?

Narrett has reflected thoroughly on this question, she said. In crafting her art, she has realized that her sexuality is partly defined by the eroticization of women. Her work reflects the notion that the way women are portrayed in everyday life has influenced her own sexual identity and the way she views other women.

Narrett’s uninhibited expression of her sexuality in her work made an impression on students attending her talk. “Becoming less filtered in work and letting go of inhibitions was very interesting to me,” said Marisha Locada, a Rhode Island School of Design student.

Narrett’s art is strongly influenced by pop culture and literature, and “The Bachelor” was the setting for one of her projects. Titled “This Meant Nothing,” the project reflects that “(The) Bachelor is a metaphor for patriarchy and heteronormativity,” she said.

Through her work, Narrett aims to question cultural anxieties and gender image standards.

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