nicole voevodin-cash: chemin d'art

Saint-Flour, France
6 July - I 8 August 2002

High on a hilltop south of Lyon, France, is Saint-Flour, a medieval village with cathedral, fountains and lace curtains. This was the site for the ninth Chemin d'Art, ('Art Route'), a project that involved seven international artists making work for civic buildings and natural sites around the town. The Australian representative was Nicole Voevodin-Cash, whose work conflates public and private spaces, often forcing the viewer into uncomfortable interaction with fellow viewers or with bodily detritus that might be better swept under the bathroom rug. A focus on the uneasy nature of these relationships in Voevodin-Cash's work has lent itself well to public projects in the past. For example, in 'Retail Therapy' (Brisbane, 2001) the artist encased ragged toenails, fingernails and human hair in plastic clip-top bags and used them to form into lace-like patterns in shop windows.

For Chemin d'Art, Voevodin-Cash again explored lace patterning, but focused much more specifically on site. She was given the windows of a sports centre, tourism office, bank and casino. Responding to the old-fashioned lace curtains that adorned the windows around town, the artist created lace-look compositions using differently sized clip-top bagsfilled with objects drawn from the local environment. In some instances, the objects also engaged with the particular business activity inside the buildings. For example, toy Euro notes and coins were formed into patterns for the bank building. Other sites displayed 'typically' French items including sugared almonds and toothpicks reflecting the French love of eating, and fruit and leaves from the local farmland relating to the toil of farmers. These were hung in concentric circles so as to appear, from a distance, like lace.

There was an atypical conservatism and quietude to this work, which reflected the artist's profound response to place - the very traditional, Catholic town. The works specifically avoided confronting the religious themes of many of the local lace curtains but, spiraling up windows of local buildings, they evoked spiritual mandalas. Voevodin-Cash sidestepped the use of many themes and objects that have become motifs in her practice. In previous work, feminine wile has masqueraded as decoration, luxury, or beauty. Viewers are lured toward these works, quickly to encounter expressions of raw female sexuality, which are often related through play and the use of sensual materials. In one instance (21st Century Chairs, 2002), Voevodin-Cash crafted plush-looking furniture that appeared to provide a comfortable resting spot yet exploded into cacophonies of squeals or vibrated when sat upon. In another Relational Objects series, 2000/01 ), carefully crafted wire objects turned out, upon closer inspection, to be douches. The hair that featured in previous Lace Series works was also included in Chemin d'Art, but after getting uncomfortable stares from the local hairdressing shop when she went in to ask for surplus hair, the artist settled for a bought wig. The use of windows and clear bags in the Chemin d'Art series operated to both reveal to the viewer the objects 'on show' and to cordon them off. In past works, Voevodin-Cash has used boxing or glassing to cheekily expose the 'grotesque' or se'lSual while also prohibiting these objects from being touched. Among other things, this is a comment on the museum environment's similar tendency to show off precious o ects while encasing them safely from touch. However, in a public art context, barriers created by windows or plastic bags perhaps reflect on the barriers that remain between our own comfort zones and those occupied by the work. The Chemin d'Art Lace Series responded to many of these barriers and also demonstrated a fine tuning of Voevodin-Cash's practice to accommodate a specific site and audience.