Kate Bohunnis exposes our gender stereotypes in new solo

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Kate Bohunnis works both with and against what she calls the “tired traditions” of gender stereotypes, creating steel and textile sculptures that inhabit a liminal zone between artificially imposed binaries. Her structures not only push the boundaries of gendered preconceptions—a space where tough and masculine metal meets soft and feminine fabric—they poke and prod, searching for, as she puts it “possibility, fluidity and potential for hybridisation.”

The Adelaide-based artist’s own skill set illustrates this search. “I fabricate all of my work myself, which is conceptually important in this context,” she explains. “As a queer woman working between two industries— metal fabrication and [textile] craft—I find myself responding to the history of these traditionally gendered materials and subverting our expectations of what they do, and who should be doing it.”

Kate Bohunnis, house that heaves (detail), 2021, faux fur, velvet, pvc, cotton, fringing, plastic beads. Courtesy of Kate Bohunnis & COMA, Sydney.

 

In house that heaves—her first Sydney solo since winning the 2021 Ramsay Prize—Bohunnis hopes to draw attention to feminine labour and gender violence, and to disrupt social norms. As she explains the show’s title, the house is a metaphor for both the body and society, meanwhile “a ‘heave’ is the upward movement of the [house’s] foundation caused by underlying issues, leading to cracks in the walls and floors.”

And while exposing the cracks in our culture is serious work, Bohunnis also gives her sculptures a humourous edge, which she says is a key tactic for tackling constricting tropes. As the artist sums up, “By pairing latexes with dated and dowdy fabrics that appear matronly or undesirable, I intend to showcase female labour in a way that rebels against norms and the male gaze.” By using these fabrics to conjure the female body, the artist is “playing with the ideas of fetishisation, sexlessness and ‘the perfect woman’.” And by “overdressing” her sculptures, Bohunnis highlights the inherent absurdity of gender stereotypes.

house that heaves
Kate Bohunnis
COMA
21 January—26 February

This article was originally published in the January/February 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Tracey Clement