Finalist No. 8: Stephanie Booth

Real Art D.C. Finalist number 8 Stephanie Booth makes work about traumatic personal events. Art-making metabolizes her toughest experiences -- from being a six-time bridesmaid to a recent car accident.
By Jessica Dawson
Friday, September 3, 2010

Six times a bridesmaid, never a bride.

That fact irked Stephanie Booth. But not for the reason you'd think.

She didn't mind her singleton status -- she was flying solo by choice. Yet the constant remarks -- for a while, in her mid-20s, too many well-meaning friends inquired about her plans for procreation -- drove her bananas.

Rather than stew about it, Booth created the series "Spinster," which she uploaded to Real Art D.C.

She made the work using bridal party photographs from the weddings she'd attended. The pictures find her in froufy, forgettable bridesmaid get-ups.

"You're essentially a prop when you're a bridesmaid," Booth says.

She then transferred those black-and-white images onto cross-stitching fabric that she took a needle to. Using thread the color of her bridesmaid dresses, she poked out the eyes of everyone but herself. (Okay, I exaggerate! She sewed little bars across everyone's eyes to obscure their identities.) In effect, she turned the "prop" into the star of the show.

Booth says that all of her artwork comes of out personal experiences that she finds difficult to process.

When I recently met Booth at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, where she both teaches and makes art, she was working on her latest project, exploring the aftermath of a recent car accident. It's tentatively titled "Don't Forget You Can't Remember." The accident, a year ago last April, left her with chronic back and shoulder pain but no memory of the crash.

Despite having no recollection of the accident, she had daily reminders that something bad had happened -- the pain and the medical bills. Her materials for this new series include medical images -- her X-rays and MRIs, which she embellishes with threads in areas that still cause her pain, and insurance claims.

Stephanie, I loved the feminist stance of the "Spinster" works. I'm less convinced by the accident series -- the works edge on self-indulgence and don't yet speak to wider issues. Please keep up the stitching, though. Working in fabric is rich with possibilities.

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