Bound And Determined
In 1999, the Chinese women that I’d photographed in 1983, many of whom had bound feet, inspired my first mixed media series. The secret nature and pathos of their unique suffering, and the dignity with which these women carried their plight, moved me deeply. I wanted others to see them as I had. In order to highlight their humanity, I painted with oils onto and around the photographs, enhancing the atmosphere surrounding and supporting each woman.
Foot binding began in China during the Tang Dynasty in the tenth century. Tang dancers would bind their feet to keep them small, like lotus blossoms. What began as a fetish and a way for these women to impress a barbarous emperor, quickly spread among the upper class. Eventually, foot binding extended throughout the entire feudal system. Some estimate that as many as 2 billion Chinese women were subjected to this torturous practice, until in 1911 it was outlawed by the Nationalists and then again in 1949 by the Communists.