By Tona Wilson
Rosendale, New York: Women's Studio Workshop, 2018. Edition of 70.
26 x 17 cm; 40 pages. Silkscreen and digital printing. French Speckletone, French Construction, Colorplan papers. Century Schoolbook and Century Gothic types. Spiral bound paper covers.
WSW: "''Dress Code Strictly Enforced' draws on the artist’s experience as a Spanish interpreter in the U.S. courts. Wilson compares attorneys, defendants, judges, and people in other key roles to theatrical players, wearing predetermined costumes and participating in staged dialogue.
“The heads-bodies-legs mix and match structure of the book allows readers to create new combinations. Doing so, they redefine the fifteen characters and create absurd, contradictory messages. The postface quotes the song ‘There but for Fortune,’ reminding readers that the role played by any given person is governed by chance as they move through interlocking systems of power."
“Official Notice”, Kathryn Scudier, April 25, 2018 (WSW): “When on a job, Tona’s in the company of social workers, prosecutors, judges, and countless others who pass through the courthouse door. She walks us through this portal as well using a blue, spiral-bound artist’s book with screenprinted images and text. On the inside cover we’re met with a metal detector in a room of wooden paneling, drawn from her time in town courts. Page one greets the reader with an officer warning them to turn off their phones
“Fifteen hand-drawn characters—ranging from officials to inmates—are printed and bound in an edition of 75. On the spread’s right side, they are divided into a head, torso, and legs in the style of mix-and-match books. Opposite an image is a sentence the person would either say or hear in court. These sentences become more absurd when creating new combinations of people. … These portraits and collected soundbites are likened by the artist to a play. When anyone walks into a courtroom, their identity is determined among a hierarchy of clothing and dialogue. In the back of the book, she presents testimony of how wearing the right shoes or necktie may sway a jury’s decision, or the side effects of wearing a gun belt. Even in this rigid system of power, so much is left to nuance and chance.”
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