Garment Registry, 1999
Altered ledger, vintage dresses, clipboards, Japanese paper, steel desk and chair, buttons, bucket, light bulb
11 x 6 x 8 ft.

Garment Registry consists of three rows of eight clipboards, each holding an ironed and carefully folded woman’s housedress, contained in a bag made of translucent Japanese paper. The clipboards are arranged in a grid in front of an industrial desk and chair, a scene that evokes official registration, interrogation, or prison. Bart has inserted personalized traces of feminine subjectivity into a patriarchal order, deconstructing the apparent neutrality of the social arrangement. Modest dresses of unknown women, Printing with flowers, stripes, and other patterns; a metal bucket filled with hundreds of colorful buttons; a ledger that includes old photographs and tiny swatches of fabric that correspond to the women’s clothing in the photographs - all of these memorialize the everyday archaeology of these women’s invisible lives and commemorate the anonymous women who worked in garment factories in the first half of the twentieth century. By using a labor-intensive process of construction, with its reference to the tedious and repetitive nature of women’s traditional work, Bart transforms the sterility of the composition and the coldness of the grid with signs of life and vitality. She explores subtleties of form, color, and texture, bringing out these silenced voices from the obscurity of the past, creating a place that invites contemplation and raises our historical consciousness. Printing on each paper bag holding a dress is a quotation from Virginia Woolf, "we are only lightly covered with buttoned cloth; and beneath these pavements are shells, bones, and silence." Like a commemorative inscription on a tombstone, it pays tribute to the quiet existence of these women, turning the entire installation into a poignant feminist monument. - Joanna Inglot, PhD

Related Exhibitions:
Between Echo and Silence/ October 7 - November 4, 2012 / Law Warschaw Gallery at Macalester College, St. Paul MN
DRAWN IN SMOKE / January 11 - February 18, 2011 / Driscoll Babcock, New York NY