Custody of the Tongue (veiling), 2013. 2:28 minutes
APRIL DAUSCHA's work is distinctly feminine—in the Victorian sense of the word. In photographs, videos and sculptures, she combines the visual language of the Victorian era with intimate acts of the body to explore her personal experiences of mourning, contrition and motherhood. April earned her BFA in Fashion Design at the International Academy of Design & Technology in Chicago, followed by her MFA in Fiber at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Her work is represented by Page Bond Gallery (Richmond, Virginia). In 2018, she has exhibited at Museum on the Seam (Jerusalem, Israel), the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (San Jose, California), the Walton Arts Center (Fayetteville, Arkansas) and her work will be included in the upcoming Uneasy Beauty: Discomfort in Contemporary Adornment, which opens on October 6, 2018 at the Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton, Massachusetts). In November 2019, her show Clothed in a Mantle of Virginity will open at Furman University Gallery in Greenville, South Carolina, where she also lives.
April Dauscha: I actually came to love the Victorian era by way of fashion; my background is in fashion design. This period originally peaked my interest because of the fashion rituals that were associated with mourning and loss: black veils and the story of Queen Victoria. The visual language of the Victorian era has allowed me to explore my personal experiences of mourning, loss, religion, femininity, sentimentality and motherhood. Materials like lace help create a visual vocabulary and symbols that give meaning to the work.
Examination of Conscience, 2011. Photograph.
OPP: Why are you drawn to lace in particular?
AD: Lace is a total dichotomy. It speaks of purity and sexuality. It reveals while it also conceals. It is humble, yet ornamentally overindulgent. In my work, I use lace as a symbol to represent the duality of body and soul, right and wrong, good and evil. The lace is always handmade and often uses a variety of needle lace techniques. The process of making lace is significant because I have always viewed the act of making as a representation of penance.
Perpetual Adoration, 2012.
OPP: I see a connection between 1970s endurance video and performance and religious ritual in your video works. How do you think about these videos as a body of work?
AD: I often use my body and handmade objects as props for fictional rituals captured through intimate, voyeuristic and documentary-style videos and photographs. The tension of using handcrafted objects often associated with women’s work and subjecting them to digital manipulation is mirrored by the duality of these beautiful and virginal objects, misappropriated in unexpected ways—ways that often lack a sense of decorum. I swing between the delicacy of handcrafting a miniature piece of needle lace to the vulgarity of wrapping a lacemaking thread, tightly, around my own tongue; this is a symbolic gesture of confession and atonement.
Bound: Reflections of the Self, 2011. Photograph.
OPP: Tell us about Bound: Reflections of Self (2011). The title frames the figures as two parts of one person, as opposed to two figures bound together. Why is hair the binding agent?
AD: Bound: Reflections of the Self is a photographic series that investigates the idea of an alter ego. These photographs explore themes of good and evil and our inseparable relationship with the dichotomy of these conditions. In this series, my hair has come to represent an uncomfortable binding of one's self to one's alter ego, while also serving as an act of penance and self-mortification.
Engorged, 2017. Glue, milk, glass bottles.
OPP: Most recently, you’ve been making work about motherhood. The body is now present in the form of its byproducts—breast milk, a baby toenail, a dried umbilical cord. Can you talk about this shift of representing the body in photography and video to representing the byproducts of the body?
AD: My work on motherhood is very much about separation, especially the separation of two bodies. My piece, Bond, is a traveling case filled with breast pumps, rubber nipples and glass baby bottles containing glue. The work signifies a connection between breastfeeding, bottle feeding, bonding and a struggle of separation between the mother’s body and that of her child.
There is a blatant absence of child and mother in this piece. The meeting of cold, hard, man-made surfaces highlights the separation of mother and child and the necessary dilemma of substituting their bodies. The vessel is a stand-in for the mother, the bottles for her breasts and the pump acts as child. The body of the infant struggles to function without its mother. The body of the mother struggles to function without its offspring.
However, I am definitely still working through performance and photography as a way of documenting the body in ways that deal with my experience as mother. My piece, Weaned (a year later), is photographic evidence of the phenomenon of perpetually-lactating breasts. This photograph was taken exactly one year after I had weaned my youngest daughter off my breast, yet my body was still attempting to nourish her body despite our bodily separation. The image becomes a symbol of yearning and the slow process of weaning, both physically and mentally, that happens between mother and child—an unwelcomed separation of bodies, one still yearning to nurture the other.
To see more of April's work, please visit aprildauscha.com.