With Mules, Old Gold With Bead Centered Flowers (2013), two shoes positioned parallel to one another sit perched atop a postcard with the words “Carte Postale” and “Chartres” appearing in dull ink, hinting at a French origin for the objects. A delicate tag near the bottom suggests that the shoes were a gift, recently received and opened. If not for the odd proportion of postcard-to-shoe size, the pair of shoes may be believable as a present. But the shoes are miniature in size, like doll shoes, making them an odd item to give someone.
When viewed in relation to her other works Mule, With Roses and Red Bows (2013), Mules, With Purple Corsage (2013) and Mules, Lime Embroidery (2003), certain visual consistencies become apparent. The shoes always lie parallel to each other, but face out in opposite directions. The postcards always seem a bit fake, like stage props, covered with French phrases as a decorative edge, or perhaps to elevate the work as a whole to a higher cultural echelon. There’s always a thin, blank tag laid across one edge of the frame, accompanied by a satin ribbon—suggesting the object is a gift, but not specifying for whom.
Partridge breaks this pattern of presentation with works like Silver Slipper With Royal Trim (2013), Empress Josephine's Slippers With Orange Blossom (2013), and Wedding Shoe (2003). Shoes appear horizontally organized and have handwritten tags. The shape of the shoe’s sole in Wedding Shoe (2003) is warped, with a label that offers contextual information and an accession number. Such details suggest that the solitary shoe holds greater meaning than a simple gift, and becomes an object of academic importance. The objects seem to be artifacts, of either a real or an imagined past time.
Partridge seems more concerned with rendering shoes as aesthetically interesting, symbolic bits of human experience, than necessarily as functional items or accurate historical signifiers.
“Collection: Serena Partridge” is on view at Brumfield’s Gallery, Boise, Idaho, Feb. 21–May 23, 2015.
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