In Hannah Altman’s series Construct of Viewpoint, the artist explores female representation through a series of self-portraits printed onto tapestries, pillows, embroidery hoops, and other textile forms.
“Sewing was one of the first ways women could make money,” Altman says. “They’d often work from home, and their completed pieces would be commissioned from a buyer who would flip them for profit to the public. What happened during this transaction was a loss of identity attached to the work. The textile work itself was so heavily influenced by the woman’s hand during the production process, but the identity of the maker receded once the piece was out of her hands.”
Every work features a part of the female body, often obscured or zoomed in uncomfortably close. The overall effect is jarring. These are images of Altman herself, but the fractured viewpoints create a sense of many characters; multiple female identities.
Altman’s work questions that eroticism of female nudes even as her imagery evokes it. A set of stuffed microfibre pillows, titled Sex Object! and Sex Object? depict bare breasts at two different angles. One image feels provocative, while the other is meditative, emotional. In a tapestry titled My Palm, Altman obscures her face with her palm even as she looks directly at the viewer. Works like these suggest a desire to be seen, but only on the artist’s own terms.
“The integration of self portraiture and textile grants a clear authority over the female body, an assertion created by the woman,” Altman says. “Construct of Viewpoint therefore offers no separation between maker and object. In this sense, it is an act of power for the female to relentlessly insert herself into her own work. From its creation to its public reception, the female is observably present.”