Suffolk sculptor references role of Millicent Fawcett in celebration of gender roles at Easter exhibition

Sculptor Caroline Mackenzie, right, and foundry-woman Sarah Pirkis with the seven foot bronze sculpt

Sculptor Caroline Mackenzie, right, and foundry-woman Sarah Pirkis with the seven foot bronze sculpture that will be on display this Easter. Picture: ANDREW HIRST - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk sculptor is showcasing her “celebration of changing gender roles” in a garden exhibition this Easter.

Sculptor Caroline Mackenzie, right, and foundry-woman Sarah Pirkis with the seven foot bronze sculpt

Sculptor Caroline Mackenzie, right, and foundry-woman Sarah Pirkis with the seven foot bronze sculpture that will be on display this Easter. Picture: ANDREW HIRST - Credit: Archant

Caroline Mackenzie hopes her work can highlight the advances in gender equality, but also the significant under-representation of female artists, particularly sculptors, that still exists in major galleries.

The centrepiece of her exhibition, which is in Snape on Easter Monday, is a seven foot bronze sculpture, “Wisdom Leaps Down”, featuring interconnected male and female forms.

Addressing gender imbalances, this sculpture has been cast by Sarah Pirkis at her foundry in Brandeston.

Caroline first made the sculpture in plaster, which Sarah then cast in bronze, in a process that has taken since July to complete.

Sculptor Caroline Mackenzie, right, and foundry-woman Sarah Pirkis with the seven foot bronze sculpt

Sculptor Caroline Mackenzie, right, and foundry-woman Sarah Pirkis with the seven foot bronze sculpture that will be on display this Easter. Picture: ANDREW HIRST - Credit: Archant


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Shushila Zeitlyn, who Caroline knows through shared experiences in India, asked to exhibit it in her Suffolk garden, so people could see the sculpture before it is sent to Scotland next month.

Other sculptures on show include a ‘Female Quaternity’, ‘Father and Daughter’ as well as smaller versions of ‘Wisdom Leaps Down’. “I am trying to add something to the symbolism of gender roles and open up new possibilities about how the genders relate to each other,” said Caroline.

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The sculptor, who trained at St Martins School of Art and lives in Leiston, is keen to draw comparisons with the recent announcement that Millicent Fawcett, the suffragist who grew up in Suffolk, was to be honoured with a statue in Parliament Square.

“As women artists, Sarah and I are the inheritors of the privileges won by Millicent Fawcett and the suffragists,” she added.

“We are also faced with the difficulty of getting our work out into the public arena.”

Caroline met Sarah at Butley Mills Studios, where she was taking an apprenticeship to become one of the very few foundry-women in a male dominated arena. After training in fine art, she said she struggled to find a form that interested her, until she visited the studio.

“As soon as I walked through the door, it felt like I was at home,” she said.

“Everything about it was exciting - the industrial atmosphere, the dust, the noise.”

Monday’s exhibition runs from 2-6pm. The gardens are at Chagford, off Church Road, Snape. People are asked to RSVP via email or 01728 832044.

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