Little White Dresses

5 Feb

A shop window in Dublin, advertising little brides for Christ.
brides of christ
A story: In Claudia Bernardi’s exhibition Agua y Tiempo hung a tiny white child’s dress– amidst pools of reflecting black water and whispering recorded voices, it was alone, glowing in a dark space. It was white and somehow dipped in wax so it was stiff. Knowing Claudia’s work with survivors of massacres and her history, as an Argentinian grappling with the legacy of the junta and all those who “disappeared” (desaparecidos), this dress seemed charged, saturated with loss–like the kind of dream you wake up from but can’t leave.

Many months later, walking through Federal Hill in Providence, I passed the local Italian bakery and saw this same image, except here it was an elaborately iced cake in the shape of a little girl’s white dress. It was as if this image of abundance and nurture (with the faintly creepy suggestion of “good enough to eat” little girls) somehow filled out or echoed Claudia’s wax empty dress— like the negative space of loss, if that kind of double reversal makes any sense. Like a day so full its sweetness remains as you fall asleep, still aware of your lover’s warmth.
Admiring the shop dummies

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