THREE AND FOUR
Three and Four is an exhibition of photography, tapestries, and light curated by Philip Sieverding.
Being a “good” woman in ancient China was defined by the male gaze, focusing on an expectation of female submission and passivity. The Three Obediences and Four Virtues (三从四德) prescribe a specific set of behaviors for women in Confucianism.
The Three Obediences are “obey your father before marriage (未嫁从父)”; “obey your husband when married (既嫁从夫)”; and “obey your sons in widowhood (夫死从子)”. Accordingly, the three generations of men a typical Chinese woman lived with claimed dominance over her.
The Four Virtues are “Female virtues (妇德)”, “Female words (妇言)”, “Female appearances (妇容)” and “Female work (妇功)”. These concepts are understood in the negative, or opposite instruction of their definitional meaning. For example, the folk saying “A woman without talents is virtuous (女子无才便是德)” is still widely known.
Each moral principle gave men choice and took agency from women. If a woman is believed to be “talking too much”, it’s lawful for her husband to divorce her. The term “long-tongue woman (长舌妇)” was created to describe women who talk behind people and stir up enmity, but there is not a counterpart term for men.
Another popular guideline for men was, "Marry a virtuous woman as your formal wife; and marry a beautiful woman as your concubine (娶妻娶德，纳妾纳色)”. A good wife was called “贤内助”, meaning “great domestic assistant”. Even today, when people compliment a good woman, the word “贤妻良母 (a good wife and mother)” is frequently used, denoting that women are still evaluated based on their identity as a wife or mother instead of themselves.
This exhibition features Asian artists who question female identity. Through a mixture of contemporary medium and ancient practice, their works shed light on the many expressions of womanhood that exist today.
Regine David is a Manila-born photographer based in Brooklyn who fashion and fine art photography. She is currently traveling in Southeast Asia.
Jessia Ma is an artist living in New York. She graduated from Cooper Union and makes mixed media works that blend historical and current culture.
Philip Sieverding is a creative living in Brooklyn, New York. Having studied both acting at NYU’s Atlantic Theater Company, as well as design and architecture, Philip seeks ways to meld his crafts, and does so with an eye for space and how to transform it. He is an actor-producer-designer-curator-builder-gardener-artist.