Radical Decadence Cover Image

Radical Decadence

Excess in contemporary feminist textiles and craft


Julia Skelly

978-1-4742-8498-1 (online)
978-1-4725-6941-7 (hardback)
978-1-4725-6940-0 (paperback)
978-1-4725-6942-4 (epdf)
Buy this book bloomsbury.com


This pioneering book explores the notion of ‘radical decadence’ as concept, aesthetic and lived experience, and as an analytical framework for the study of contemporary feminist textile art. Gendered discourses of decadence that perpetuate anxieties about women’s power, consumption and pleasure are deconstructed through images of drug use, female sexuality and ‘excessive’ living, in artworks by several contemporary textile artists including Orly Cogan, Tracey Emin, Allyson Mitchell, and Rozanne Hawksley.

Perceptions of decadence are invariably bound to the negative connotations of decay and degradation, particularly with regard to the transgression of social norms related to femininity and the female body. Excessive consumption by women has historically been represented as grotesque. Until now, women’s pleasure in relation to drug and alcohol use has largely gone unexamined in feminist art history and craft studies; here, representations of female consumption, from cupcakes to alcohol and cocaine, are opened up for critical discussion.

Drawing on feminist and queer theories, portrayals of ‘bad girls’ in artworks that explore female sexuality are considered as performative art designed to subvert and exceed expected feminine roles. In this provocative book, decadence is understood not as a destructive force but as a liberating aesthetic.