Book of Childhood Memories, 6.5” x 52”x 7.5, Mylar drypoint with watercolor, adhered gouache painting, and hand embroidery, 2022
Be more ladylike. I have been told this phrase countless times while growing up. It always confused me. To my mother’s generation, this phrase echoes the idea that anything men can do women can do better, or tries to prove their value. For my grandmother’s generation, it resembles someone seen and not heard. Someone frustrated by their own abilities and desires being set aside for their womanly duties. This phrase has been hard for me to define because of these contradicting definitions. I still can not tell you what it means but I can show you what it looks like.
My artwork defines this phrase by focusing on memories I had growing up with. Many of these experiences include an important connection with nature, such as gardening with my mother or hiking with my grandpa. Often, it’s as if Mother Nature is the third person involved in each memory. Mother Nature was always very comforting to me, she made me feel feminine but strong. She helped me breathe when I couldn’t find my breath. She never told me to be more ladylike but when I spent time with her I learned a lot about what it meant.
My best work uses printmaking or sewing to compile thoughts from my subconscious and leaves a surprising impression on the viewer. It often includes powerful phrases that describe experiences growing up. I use vintage media, such as old gardening catalogs, as inspiration to reference past generations’ expectations as a woman. In a way, it is my love language because everyone who was trying to make me more ladylike, made me how I am today. They taught me how to be strong and have a sense of humor. They taught me how to sew and how to curse. They taught me to unironically love.
Cicely Pickel is a graduating student from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BFA emphasizing printmaking from Davey, Nebraska. Her works cover a variety of mediums but is based primarily in printmaking and textile arts. She is interested in making works that combine feelings of nostalgia with quotes or phrases from her subconscious. She has also had work in shows at the LUX Center for the Arts, Gallery 23, and the Eisentrager-Howard Gallery. Her work has also been featured in the Daily Nebraskan and the Laurus. While currently working for Lincoln Public Schools as a Highly Gifted Fine Arts Mentor, she has also assisted with CLC programs with BLIXT non-profit, assisted with UNL art outreach projects in Alliance and Winnebago, and interned at the LUX Center for Arts. See more of her work on instagram @art_by_cicely.