Denise Weston

Women of a Nervous Disposition

This new body of work seeks to explore themes linked to the perception of 'mental illness' with specific reference to women. The use of narrative, misdiagnosis and loss is a central theme, as well as the idea of 'the gift' and' forgetting'. I am also concerned with examining conceptions of female iconography, representation and identity.

This is the first phase of the project and the work will be developed over a 2 year period, comprising of paintings, drawings, book and box work. Further female subjects, both historical, contemporary and personal will be added to the thematic content as the work progresses.

The first three subjects in this series are: the sculptor, Camille Claudel (1864-1943), the writer, editor and social reformer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) and the fictional character of 'Sister Ruth' from the novel, 'Black Narcissus' published in 1937 by Rumer Godden  and the film adaptation by Powell & Pressburger, 1947.

Camille Claudel (1864-1943) was a French sculptor, romantically linked to Auguste Rodin. Claudel was originally his pupil and became the muse for several of Rodin's works. Claudel was an artist in her own right and exhibited her work independently after the end of her relationship with Rodin in 1893. She was  sadly interned in a psychiatric hospital after her fathers death in 1913. In 1914, she was moved to Montdevergues Asylum and remained there until her death in 1943, despite recommendations from various doctors that she could be released. In March 2017, Musee Camille Claudel opened in Nogent- sur -Seine to provide a new permanent  home for Camille's sculptural works, many of which had been previously housed in the Rodin Museum.

Charlotte Perkins-Gilman (1860-1935) was an american writer, editor and social reformer. 'The Yellow Wallpaper' (1892) is perhaps Gilman's most well known-work. Other notable works include 'Herland', a feminist Utopian novel published in 1915. She committed suicide in 1935, after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

'Sister Ruth' is a character from the novel,' Black Narcissus' by Rumer Godden, published in 1937. She also appears in the Powell & Pressburger film of the same name in 1947 and was played by the actress Kathleen Byron. I have been fascinated by the film presence of Sister Ruth for several years and this project has provided an opportunity for me to respond to this interest in a number of ways, both figuratively and in a more abstract manner.

This work was first exhibited from 20th April - 18th May 2017 at Lace Market Gallery, NCN, Nottingham. A series of related events took place, including 2 live art performances by the performance artist, Annette Foster, with costume by Davinia Jackson. A Symposium, ' Art as Gift', led by Derek Hampson and Denise Weston took place on Saturday 13th May 2017. ( Guest speaker, Peter Suchin, artist & critic - Art Monthly,)

From 2nd February-28th March 2018, 'Women of a Nervous Disposition' is being exhibited at Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester as part of DeStress Fest.

An accompanying soundtrack piece was released on 2nd February 2018 by Trio Nerveux, specifically written for and inspired by the female subjects within the exhibition.

Two further female subjects have now been added to this body of work. They are: Martha Graham 1894-1991, the American choreographer and dancer and the character of  'Mabel' from the film 'A Woman Under the Influence' played by Gena Rowlands, directed by John Cassavetes (1974).


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