Three Graces, And Voids - Rose Higham-Stainton
Three Graces, and Voids is a reappraisal of femininity through the prism of the Three Graces from Greek mythology, drawing on art and literary criticism, cultural theory and autobiography. Emblematic of western feminine ideals, what do the Graces elicit and what do they leave unsung. Through direct address, this work of creative nonfiction is a form of communion, a chorus of voices and a contemporary feminist text that proposes an aesthetics of resistance through women's creative practices.
The project began during the Summer of 2019, as the thesis for my Masters in Writing at Royal College of Art.
It began as a pin-board, and a folder of things on my desktop. A beacon, or light that despite appearances, was not a map, was not burdened with points or truths. Rather, it was a web, a lattice, a gossamer surface, a knot, a loosened braid, an aerated bubble.
The Graces, and their versions and cyphers beckoned me - hopeful? Lost? Desperate? - and I embraced them. And although I was alone at my desk amassing images and texts and thoughts into a final body of - or bodies of – work, it felt choral. People shared their versions and visions and findings of the Graces. I spoke to the Graces, and other women spoke to me, through their practice - Julian of Norwich, Tai Shani, Judy Chicago, Simone Rocha - and I hope I have spoken back to them. As it took shape, two more women - Emily Schofield and Veronica Viacava - joined me and helped me turn it into a visual, material, object – a modest book - and for a moment, we were graces of another kind.
It began as a seed, and grew. And I grew with it.
In the spirit of growth, the project lives on, regenerating and growing new limbs and follicles and teeth, and as such I will share its breaths and surfaces, episodically, on these pages. They will be original and revised fragments of the text; things will slip, mystify and eventually fade out and new versions will materialise, ideas expanded, conversations generated.
Because this thing is too much. And never enough. Aren’t we all?
This is a work of creative nonfiction that explores femininity and womanhood through the prism of the Three Graces from Greek mythology. Three chapters speak to and of the Graces – their story as ‘minor players’, their image of idealised femininity and their union in sisterhood and labour. It questions representations of femininity and proposes an aesthetics of resistance through a chorus of women’s voices across generations and disciplines uniting us in creative practices.
An amassing of images and texts and ideas resemble the plurality of the Three Graces, infer their essential feminine, or counter it with what Tai Shani calls an ‘imagined better’. I reclaim our story in the heady prose of Annie Dillard, Julian of Norwich and in the self-reflexive practices of Renaissance Bologna’s female artists and Moyra Davey; celebrate women’s abundance as resistance in Simone Rocha’s sartorial excess and the practices of Megan Rooney, Amy Sillman and Tai Shani; finally eliciting women’s togetherness through the amorphous Honey-Suckle Company, Mounting , TLC. This web is akin to Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas , Nancy Spero’s scrolls,theliteraryloopingofW.G.Sebaldin RingsofSaturn– –andvisuallyarticulatedinthe presentation of the document, which plays on feminine aesthetics and was realised through a three-way collaboration with Photographer Veronica Viacava and Designer Emily Schofield..
The form of the Three Graces is the thesis. It is a mimetic of their abundance in its prose style, and of their clouded story, in its overlapping narratives that avoid discernible conclusion and offer instead digressions––such as the bubble, in the Coda, familiar in its airy essentialism and circularity.
Graphic design by Emily Schofield
Photography by Veronica Viacava
210 × 148 mm