They exist as two opposed shapes of consciousness; one is the independent consciousness whose essential nature is to be for itself, the other is the dependent consciousness whose essential nature is simply to live or to be for another. The former is lord, the other is bondsman.
– G. W. F. Hegel
Painted Lady is a video and text installation that engages the Hegelian formation of lordship and bondage as a feminist site. The video establishes the lord as a pair of black-gloved hands, while the golden chrysalis occupies the role of the bondsman. The hands exert their power over the chrysalis through a violent act: one part science experiment, one part snuff film. The text that accompanies the video identifies the gloved hands as belonging to the female scientist. Her dominance over the chrysalis establishes their relationship as opposed shapes of consciousness. McCleese’s work radically proposes violence as a space of empowerment when it lies in female hands.