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Exhibition Shattering preconceptions

JOSEPHINE BARTOSCH reports on a unique pottery exhibition which challenges the myths surrounding female prostitution

AN “OPEN studio goes on the road,” is how artist Claudia Clare describes the exhibition And the Door Opened (AtDO).

The large ceramic pots she creates for it are not hidden away in exclusive galleries. They are proudly on view in venues such as a shopping centre, a library and a church.

Arts Council-funded, it is a vibrant exhibition that invites the public to watch the creation, ritualistic smashing and reconstruction of art works.

Clare etches the stories of those who have been exploited in prostitution into her pots. Pieces such as I Am Not a Criminal and Street to Hostel and Exit celebrate the resilience of women in the face of violence and societal indifference. These hidden realities are central to her work.

Fiona Broadfoot, a campaigner whose portrait stares out from one of Clare’s pots, was groomed into prostitution as a teenager before exiting in her mid-twenties and, as she explains: “There’s a lot of money invested in promoting the ‘happy hooker myth’ and it’s easier to believe that the women and girls abused in prostitution chose to be there.

“Social services and the police write women and children off and those who are prostituted are blamed for their own abuse.

“This must change and I hope those who see this work understand this and that they learn about the stories of the women behind these pots.

 “Looking at Claudia’s pots I can see my story represented on many levels. Like the pots, I still carry cracks from when I was broken and can still feel fragile at times but I am whole and I am proud.”

Pilgrim Vase, a piece created by Claudia Clare for the Dear Christine exhibition, is an unflinchingly honest portrait of Christine Keeler that strips away the sanitising “society showgirl” image.

“Abuse and poverty made Christine an easy target,” Clare says. “It was not her fabled beauty that victimised her, it was socially and sexually entitled, predatory men.”

Much of the power of Clare’s work is created through the process. The smashing and painstaking piecing together of the pots, detailed with gold leaf, leaves a finished piece that is a record both of completeness and destruction.  

They honour the fortitude of women whose stories are too often left untold.

And the Door Opened, with talks, readings and a pot-smashing ceremony, is on from 6-8pm, March 30, Wood Green Library, 191 High Road, Wood Green, N22 6XD as part of Women’s History Month. Free. For information on other shows and related events throughout the year, visit claudiaclare.blogspot.com or claudiaclare.co.uk

 

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