“75% of the women were labeled ‘unidentified.’ And that just struck a chord with me, how these lives and labors were lost.”
Unidentified Women made its debut in Santa Fe on January 26th. Fiber artist Jodi Colella appeared at the gallery for the opening reception and artist talk. Afterwards, she sat down with us to discuss the inspiration for her moving exhibition.
It started somewhere among the vast archives of the Historic Northampton Museum in Northampton, Massachusetts. Jodi Colella was working on an art project inspired by the museum’s headwear collection, and she stumbled upon a series of daguerreotype portraits. “They were like little 19th century selfies,” Colella says. “I noticed that all the men in the images had every single detail of their life listed in the catalog. About 80% of the women were labeled ‘unidentified.’” The artist was fascinated by these forgotten, female faces, and the contrast between the women’s fleeting social visibility and their invisibility to history. After hunting down similar portraits in flea markets and antique shops, Colella stitched intricate embroideries across the images, further obscuring the women’s identities.