New works that reframe the Cook narrative by Helen Snell
19th July – 3rd November
Cook’s official artists recorded some of the first encounters between Europeans and native peoples with varying degrees of objectivity. Helen’s work is a response to the extraordinary drawings, paintings and prints that documented James Cook’s three voyages. On closer inspection, these seductive images sometimes reveal a darker subtext.
Taking inspiration from the many original works in the Captain Cook Memorial Museum collection, Helen seeks to reframe our view of the Cook story raising questions about how we see, understand and interpret these Images.
Helen’s work will be exhibited as part of Neogeographies at The Captain Cook Memorial Museum and at The Museum of Whitby Jet. Helen works predominantly in laser cutting and water jet cutting to make work in a range of materials from metal to textiles. Helen was the inaugural artist in residence at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth Historic Dockyards from 2014-2017
We are delighted to be part of this collaborative exhibition. On display at Whitby Museum will be “Appropriation Dress”. Appropriation Dress is a silk dress, embellished with digital embroidery, laser cut silk and satin pieces, mother of pearl and beads.
The dress symbolises the growing materialism of the eighteenth century in Europe and its subsequent global impact, the effects of which are still with us today. The lavish sleeves and hems are festooned with the predatory hands of European Imperialists. The embroidery features motifs taken from images by artists on the three voyages, including A Woman of Otaheite by John Webber. In the engraving she is wearing a large skirt of bark cloth as an offering to Cook.
The overlaying of motifs of Cook’s ship the Endeavour, starting with one solitary vessel at the waist and ending up with a tangle of ships at the bottom of the dress references the rapid migration of Europeans to their “newly acquired” territories.