In advance of Memorial Day, I thought I would showcase several works of the great British textile artist Rozanne Hawksley (b. 1931). As a World War II evacuee, many of her textile collages and installations feature the general themes of war, loss and remembrance; I find her funeral wreaths particularly poignant and also beautiful. But you have to look closely. Her most famous, or at least photographed, work is Pale Armistice (1991), which is in the permanent collection of the Imperial War Museum in Britain.
Pale Armistice is a textile sculpture collage made of overlapping vintage white men’s and women’s gloves. It looks bridal rather than funereal, but tucked in amongst the flowers and gloves are bleached bones. The gloves signify marriage but also loss; the piece was made in memory of Hawksley’s grandmother who lost her husband in World War One, one of many war widows of her generation.
Two more Hawksley wreaths employing found objects and evoking loss are Caiphus (2007) and Memorial Wreath. The latter, from the Imperial War Museum’s current exhibition Women War Artists, is more obviously a funeral/memorial wreath, made of a seagull’s skull, around which is draped the traditional black silk square that forms part of a British sailor’s uniform when rolled into a neck tie.