Meghan Willis: Nearly So

Today sees the world of needlework transformed. Gone are the days of the Victorian pastime of stitching cautionary verses from the Bible, or of endless renditions of 'Home Sweet Home', gone even are the days of pseudo posies of flowers stitched manically in the 1980s, trying to recapture some weird twisted Victorian fantasy, courtesy of my own bete noir Laura Ashley, that woman has much to answer for!

Contemporary needlework of the twenty first century has balls. It has attitude, it has focus. It has political, social, sexual aspirations and agendas. It highlights gender disparity, it highlights the fight for true sexual freedom, it fights for a state of inclusion for all, and against exclusion based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnic origin.

Many more men have taken up needlework as a form of expression, which is always great to see, and many more artists see needlework as a legitimate vehicle for their creative output.

Meghan Willis: Accoutrements: Camille

Meghan Willis: Accoutrements: Hailey

Meghan Willis: Accoutrements: kate

One of those contemporary artists, and a leading one is Meghan Willis. Meghan has created a name for herself as an uncompromising artist who uses stitch in order to highlight the strength and power of women, particularly through their sexuality.

Female sexuality has always been vigorously downgraded, managed, even actively discouraged by men in positions of power. It has been feared by those self-same small men with big egos. They have always feared the fact that female sexuality and sensuality can be owned, that it can be seen as a power-base, as a central enabler to self, and that scares some men shitless.

Meghan portrays women as comfortable with their bodies, as celebrating them, independent of what the prevailing culture, advertising, or men dictate.

Meghan Willis: LGBTQ Flag: Transgender

Meghan Willis: LGBTQ Flag: Genderqueer

Meghan shows in her Accoutrements series for example, frank portraits of women, naked, matter of fact, holding sexual accessories that bring them individual pleasure, sexual pleasure. These compositions do not titillate, they are not meant as objects of pornography, they are matter of fact, sexuality being as integral to the object of being as a leg or an arm. We are sexual creatures, why would we pretend otherwise?

Meghan has also included a couple of pieces from her LGBTQ Flag series, where subjects submitted self-portraits to her, portraits that represent who they feel to be. Meghan then stitched, working in some of the colours of the LGBTQ flag that best represented those individuals.

This is an artist that underlines empowerment, self and group empowerment. Her work represents the innate strength of women as full individuals, which includes a sexual identity as integral to that strength and individuality.

Meghan Willis: Patchwork Portrait: Kate

Meghan Willis: Patchwork Portrait: Katie

It is sad therefore, that hardly any of the images shown in this feature will be shown on one of the biggest and most universal of social media platforms, facebook. 

Facebook actively pursues an agenda that cuts sexuality out of the equation of humanity, but particularly in women. By denying women the right to express themselves through their naked bodies, and certainly through any form of real sexuality, we are back in the arena where men are again dictating the terms in how women are seen, how they are judged. Fear of women as comfortable, centred sexual creatures is never far from the surface.

We therefore have to be thankful for contemporary artists like Meghan Willis who consistently challenge that dysfunctional discrimination, and I am proud to feature her work on this site. Long may she continue to stitch!

Meghan Willis: Decompress

Artist: Meghan Willis

All work is copyrighted to the artist. Please ask permission before sharing imagery. Thank you.