Leah Emery explores ideas of femininity through the unlikely medium of pornographic cross stitch. Emery has carefully chosen cross stitch to achieve maximum contrast with her subject matter. Her careful choice of confronting poses are picked out in neat cross-stitches allowing the viewer of her work to be lured into a sense of safety before becoming a voyeur to a highly erotic scene. The more explicit the pornographic scene, the greater the divide between the restrained, traditional, female craft she employs.
Emery’s images provoke consideration of a chain of oppositions as drawing room merges with bedroom, public meets private and restraint clashes with prurience. Close up her tiny stitches resemble the pixels in a grainy photo. Silky embroidery thread smoothes hair and disappears sweat; untouched, virginal white canvas surrounds an explicit scene.
Rather than shock with her seemingly bold choice of subject matter, Emery hopes to encourage a healthy debate around sexual health and ‘feminine’ crafts. Emery explains “I sought to utilise this predominantly phallocentric imagery through a medium that had its roots in feminine tradition to juxtapose the confrontational world of sex and smut with the graceful qualities of laborious craft work.”
Emery won the 2013 Yen Staedtler Female Art Award and was a finalist the 2009 University of Queensland Artist Self Portrait Prize.