Archive for the 'textile art' Category



Some Time Later (by Clairan Ferrono)

photo 4

E Hesse

http://collection.mam.org/search.php?search=Hesse%2C%20Eva

 

Some time ago I posted about an art filled trip I’d taken to Wisconsin.  This post was meant to follow shortly thereafter, but life intervened.  Finally, we move on to the Milwaukee museum of art. I had limited time, so I quickly determined to see only the modern art (which is what I am most interested in).  One room was closed, which was a disappointment, but that allowed me to spend more time with each piece that intrigued me.

L Carroll

L Carroll Grey Sleeping Painting 2010-12

Carroll detail Carroll detail 2

details

I was taken by this rough mixed media piece by Lawrence Carroll, an artist I’d never seen before:  https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Carroll  Of course, the stitching drew me in! This piece is made of wax and canvas on wood.

O'Keefe

G. O’Keeffe

There was a room of O’Keeffes, but I found none very interesting except for this small still life.  The vegetables seem to me to have her particular sensuality, and I like how they are clearly situated in the white bowl? on the white cloth? which is narrowly delineated at the top of the painting.

De Witt detailDeWitt detail

S. LeWitt Wall Drawing #88

This piece by Sol LeWitt was drawn on an entire wall of the museum in pencil.

Sol de Witt

The work was conceived by de Witt specifically for the Milwaukee Museum of Art, but not executed by him.  He gave instructions (above) that  6″ grids should be drawn to cover the wall and that freehand lines (looking very much like quilting!) should be drawn inside each square.  He further instructed that the inside of the wall have blue and yellow lines, but this was not done.  He clearly believed that “the hand of the artist” was not essential, only the idea.  However, I wonder what the work would have looked like if he himself had drawn all the lines.

Joan Mitchell

J. Mitchell Untitled 1969

I spent most of my time with the abstract expressionists (no surprise here!).  I like the movement around the dark clotted enter of this piece by Joan Mitchell. I also like the texture of the thick paint.

Mitchell detail

detail

Rothko

Rothko Green Red Blue 1955

This is not one of the best Rothkos, but his work is always worth looking at to my mind.

Hoffman

H Hoffman Dew and Dusk 1957

Hans Hoffman was the teacher of the early abstract expressionists and a master of color.  His work is so exuberant I couldn’t help smiling the entire time I was looking at it. The multiple colors are so saturated  that there is no hint of the “rainbow” effect.

Hoffman detail

detail

 

Diebenkorn

Diebenkorn 2

R Diebenkorn OCEAN PARK #88 1974

The Diebenkorn was too large for me to get a full shot of, and again, it’s not his best work, but still quite lovely melting soft soothing sea colors kept from being too sweet by some dark and sharp lines of color containing them. I love the blurred edges as well.

As it turned out, I had 15 minutes extra which I spent just sitting in a big comfy chair, looking out a window at a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan.  In addition, it is worth a trip to this museum for the building itself designed by Saarinen. It has wings which are opened and closed at specific times of day.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFQQJIUTv9M

https://mam.org/info/details/quadracci.phpwww.mam.org

You can get an app for your phone showing different views of the wings opening and closing.

Dorothy Caldwell — making art of place (by Kathleen Loomis)

My local fiber and textile art group was privileged to have the internationally known fiber artist Dorothy Caldwell spend a week with us earlier this month teaching workshops.  She also gave a lecture on her activities in the “outback” of two countries, Australia and Canada. These activities have culminated in a show that has just closed in Peterborough, Ontario, and will soon travel to two other venues in Canada.

She points out that Australia and Canada are similar nations in many ways:  They’re both huge countries with the great majority of the population clustered on the edges, with vast expanses of sparsely settled, ecologically fragile territory that few people ever get to see.  They were both British colonies, with substantial numbers of people who were transported there as punishment.  Both are rich in resources.

Dorothy has been traveling to Australia for 20 years on a variety of travel, teaching, study and artist residence programs.  Recently she received a grant from the Canadian government to conduct two parallel art projects on the two continents; in both places she would go to a remote location for several weeks, getting to know it, collecting both natural and manmade artifacts, and dyeing paper and fabric with indigenous plant and earth materials.  Then she made a new set of works reflecting her experiences.

In Australia, she visited a sheep station in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, north of Adelaide.  In Canada, she went to Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, 1600 miles north of Toronto, close to Greenland.

“My work is about being in a particular place and using what’s there,” she said.  “I want to get out into the landscape, experience the land, get to know a place by handling the materials.”  For instance, she hiked barefoot on the delicate tundra to get a feel for the tiny, stunted vegetation.

On both these visits she brought Japanese handmade paper, tough enough to hold up in a dye pot, and colored them with natural pigments from plants and earth.  She also collected things like rusty nails and broken tools from the sheep shearers, which came home to become part of the “museum” section of her show.

“Collecting has always been an important part of what I do, since I was a little kid,” Dorothy said.  “My way of journaling is collecting.”

After she came home from her trips, she made some of her characteristically huge fiber pieces to reflect her travels and learnings.  Here’s one inspired by the Arctic summer, with 24-hour daylight that often leads people to stay up all night in euphoria.  Dorothy asked one of the locals how they dealt with not being able to distinguish between “day” and “night” and was both chagrined and charmed at the response:  “When we’re tired we go to sleep.”

Dorothy Caldwell, How Do We Know It’s Night, 120 x 114″

Here’s a piece about the fjord on which Pangnirtung is built.

Dorothy Caldwell, Fjord, 120 x 114″ 

I was delighted to observe how she continues her practice of collection and documentation even if she’s not in an exotic place, but somewhere as unspecial as Louisville.

On a day off between workshops we walked over the new pedestrian bridge that spans the Ohio River.  When we got to the Indiana side, Dorothy pulled a plastic bag out of her purse and proceeded to collect stuff to memorialize this place.  She found some mud to daub on a card, writing the date and place on the back, and then dunked some silk into muddy water to dye it.  She repeated the process on the Kentucky side (even though to my eye mud on one side of the river is fairly indistinguishable from mud on the other).

On the Kentucky side we found some deep footprints in the sand at the edge of the river, partially filled with water that had seeped in.  Dorothy looked around, found a root, and used it to stir up the water into an opaque dye-like solution to color her cards and silk.

Here’s the root, the silk, and the card, out to dry in the sun (and the footprint/dye pot).  She took the root home too as a souvenir.

By the end of the week she had assembled a “museum” in her room of her trip to Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.  There’s the root on the right and the cards in the middle; the silk has been partially twisted into string, and she also collected some bits of rusty metal to round out the display.

 

 

Deep sea crochet (by Olga Norris)

In the current issue of Sculpture magazine I encountered an extraordinary story of mass participation crochet coral.  The images would normally have put me off, because I am not a fan of the crowded and what I would call visually messy; but Sculpture is a serious publication, and I have rarely been disappointed with its articles.  You can perhaps read the article through this link.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAImage from Institute for Figuring

There have been several collaborations between science and the arts now, which can be read about here, and here, and here, and seen/listened to here.  It is an area which seems to be growing, to my delight, because I do very much believe in the benefits of cross pollination.  I thought that the Coral Crochet Reef would perhaps make an interesting post for Ragged Cloth Café.

Twins from Australia, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, the former the scientist (physics and maths) and the latter the artist (painting, literature, and logic), but both interested in mathematics were intrigued by a Latvian mathematician who worked out how to model hyperbolic geometry with crochet.  They worked on examples of hyperbolic geometry for a couple of years until bored with perfect shapes – and found that imperfections in the pattern looked organic, and that the results looked like corals.  They decided that they could crochet a whole reef – and from there the larger project grew.  There is an excellent You-tube film here which explains the project much better than I ever could.

crochetcoralreef_1Image from here

Should you wish to create your own versions of crocheted or knitted corals there are patterns here and here.  This whole project, or the wide totality of projects goes to show just how much folks enjoy being part of creative communities, indeed, of a greater creative community.  I’m not sure how many would think more about mathematics beyond hyperbolic geometry – but perhaps even if just one or two do that is success.  I do hope that an increasing number of projects like this, and others combining ideas of science and the arts will permeate everyday culture so that we will grow up thinking more widely and in less pigeon-holed a manner.

To my personal visual taste the crochet reefs might be unattractive compared with the real growing marvels, but if our humanity can be enhanced as well as the existence of those who share our planet, then crochet on!

coral for real  The real thing – image from here

In touch with our senses? (by Olga Norris)

Our visual sense is so dominant, and so important to a majority of us that when we think of art we automatically think of visual art.  Indeed most of our art presents itself to our eyes, and apart from music it is difficult to think of art which is designed to be appreciated by the other senses.  For instance, the art of cookery is rarely taken seriously as a ‘true’ or ‘fine’ artform, but rather an elevated skill – although when I was at university I knew someone who had received an Arts Council grant to make an edible exhibition – which we ate.

I was recently at a festival of music and found myself thinking about how much more I derive from the music when my eyes are closed.  There is then nothing visual to interfere with my hearing and thinking.  This led me to think about the other senses which we perhaps under use despite their being so powerfully evocative.  After all did not Marcel Proust write a multi volume classic spurred by the smell and taste of a small cake?  (I believe that smell goes straight to the limbic system which is the area which controls memories and emotions.)

I work with fabric, so I want to concentrate on touch.

Touch is important – indeed it is vital for our emotional development.  Those of us who work with fibre, textiles, wood, clay, plaster, etc. all know how important the feel of our materials at various stages of our work  is vital to the satisfaction we derive from making that work.  Those sensations of touch are what make us work that way,  but we sublimate that essential tactile quality in order to present the finished work to the eyes of the audience.  Exhibitions are to be seen, not touched – exhibits to be looked at, not felt, until purchase at least.  But we can therefore never wholly transmit the total work to those who observe – they can never participate in that haptic experience.

In working with fabric there is a kind of teasing going on in that we want the audience to want to feel the work, but not actually to do so.  Quiltmaker Elisabeth Brimelow has stated about her work in a recent book: ‘I hardly ever cover my work with glass, even the small pieces.  The secret with textiles is that the viewer should want to touch and feel, and glass creates a barrier.’

I believe this desire to touch and the inability to do so is particularly a deprivation where art quilts are concerned.  These objects began life as warmers, comforters, and yet so many of us strive to elevate them to the status of art by making them wholly visual.  Success visually seems to be the main criterion for art success.  Our competitive entry systems for exhibitions have further channelled that visual appeal to work within seconds – evoking a slow-burning reaction is likely to gather more rejections from juried shows.  Instant appeal wins out.

I am guilty of enjoying the touch of the making, but aiming for a visual end.  Although my initial artistic ambitions were in the medium of acrylics, I admit that I ultimately chose fabric rather than paint partly because I love to have something to pass through my hands – to feel the different materials, the prick of the needle, the pull of the thread, feeling the altered topography of a surface as I progress.  I am also sad that I and others cannot put out a hand to feel those quilts that hang enticing me so at exhibitions.  Of course I understand that damage can be done, but still, wouldn’t it be wondrous if some artists made work specifically to be touched as well as seen?  I don’t mean just little samples – although I do wish that more exhibitions made them available to handle – I mean whole pieces of work that are meant to be experienced through touch, not solely through our eyes – and that these pieces could also be called art, or even an art experience, and that they were not simply devised for those with visual impairment.  Or perhaps is it that the wanting to touch but not being able to – the sublimation of the desire, is part of the intellectual sophistication needed to appreciate art?

Perhaps art to wear comes closest to being an art for tactile experience – although perhaps that again is really a collaboration with the intention of the art being seen.  But then when I thought of artists who might have wanted to engage viewers’ other senses I immediately recalled Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece involves cutting her clothes off.  It had to do with other motives, but the participants had to grasp Ono’s clothing, and feel the hard steel of the scissors.  A Place Called Space blog  has an excellent overview of a Yoko Ono retrospective, and has also mentioned the new work Moving Mountains which involves visitors getting into cloth bags to move on the floor as living sculptures.

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01

Tereza Stehlikova : http://terezast.com/?page_id=1  initiated the setting up of Sensory Sites, a collective of artists committed to creating multisensory work. http://www.artintouch.co.uk/2012/08/08/manifesto/   Looking at one of the artists in the collective: Bonnie Kemske : http://www.bonniekemske.com  (pictures of work above) I thought how wonderful it would be if we could make textile work which was experienced by visitors – and not necessarily by dancers, like these sculptures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RwgTICUBIs  I suspect, however that most of the art resulting from the research still is largely visual and or intellectual.  In the Tactile Workshops video on Tereza Stehlikova’s site, it is the art students who experience the tactile experiments, and they progress then to reproduce their reactions in work to be seen. http://terezast.com/?projects=tactile-workshop

Perhaps the senses of seeing and hearing are simply so particularly important to us, so intellectually qualitatively different from those of touch, taste, and smell that the rewards for seeing and hearing works are valuable beyond the rewards from engagement with the other senses.  But wouldn’t it be good to have a little more variety?

On the other hand it seems that increasingly more folks want to make things: crafts of all kinds are on the up with the young as well as with the retired.  This is true in the broad range of embroidery and quilting, as well as there seeming to be a potter round every corner these days.  Is this perhaps because our current life of mass market affordable commodities removes all need to make anything we can so cheaply buy.  Thus in our largely non-salary-earning time we now devote ourselves to becoming makers who get that full haptic satisfaction: the full experience of the touching at every stage. Yet then in order to measure our success the finished work is set up for competition in the now inevitably overcrowded arena of visual judging.

Questions, questions (by Olga Norris)

In her juror’s statement in the Quilt National 2011 catalogue Eleanor McCain, started with the question ‘What about these works of art demands that they be formed from cloth and thread?  Is there a message and meaning that can only be revealed through this medium?  What in the quilt form is important to the art?  As a fiber art professor once asked, “If it’s not about the fiber, why work in that medium?” 

 I was struck with these questions which set me thinking.  I can only talk about my own work, which was successful in being selected for this exhibition.  I have not seen the discussion which June spoke of in her comments in the previous post, so forgive me if I am duplicating.  (I have had irritating experiences with Yahoo which are too tedious to go into here.)  The thoughts I have originate with my own work(s), but I hope that those thoughts will elicit responses from others. 

Ponder

What about my piece demands that it be formed from cloth and thread?  Well, certainly not the subject, whatever people interpret it to be, because subjects can be explored and manifest in all sorts of media.  It is essentially how the artist wishes to express themselves that dictates what medium, and what techniques within the medium are chosen.  I suppose the question that I should perhaps ask myself each time I make a piece of work in quilt form is ‘Is this the most appropriate medium to choose?’  I do know that although those are the means I mostly use to express myself at present, some ideas and designs ‘do not work’ for me in cloth and stitch, and demand a different treatment.  This is a kind of discrimination on my part, but I must admit that I do not rigorously investigate how far my works demand to be formed from cloth and thread.

 This ties closely with the next question: Is there a message and meaning that can only be revealed through this medium?  Again, the answer is probably no in the case of my piece.  Choosing a medium has more to do with the language, the voice in which I ‘speak’ rather than to do with the message or the meaning.  Of course the medium can colour the delivery of any message, just as it does the interpretation – but is it so important that the message should only be revealed in this medium?  Are there any – or many – messages which can only be revealed in this medium? What in the quilt form is important to the art?  At last a question I can answer without frustration.  As Eleanor McCain said: ‘The quilt is laden, even burdened, with symbolism.’.  It is that symbolism and the symbolic values of cloth and stitch generally which contribute to the way the message is both presented and interpreted.  Indeed this is part of what makes quilt-making a slow art: not only is it obvious that the making takes time, but also the full interpretation should take time.  In this way, being judged for exhibition becomes even more of a lottery if initial impact is not part of the message. 

One of the qualities of the art quilt is that it is derived from an everyday practical object to which one does not regularly pay much attention.  But in that familiarity as part of the background, at a receptive moment it can catch the viewer’s casual glance to reveal more, drawing the eye to consider and perhaps understand more.  Of course enigmatic work in any medium can do that.  And choosing to make work in quilt form is a double-edged sword in that by that very use of everyday materials which hang as they are the work can be dismissed as somehow inferior, easily made, domestic in a pejorative way compared with neat framed wall art which is believed to take skill, and uses special materials which are only to be found in artists’ studios.

I therefore think that it is so much more difficult to make good art using a medium which is so easily overlooked or dismissed.  But the question of good art was not raised. 

The professor’s quoted statement of ‘If it’s not about the fiber, why work in that medium?’ I find it useful to keep asking myself questions such as whether I am a fibre artist.  I could be described as a digital printmaker who uses cloth and stitch.  And sometimes I develop images/designs which are not always suitable for use with cloth and/or stitch.   

Part of my use of medium, I must frankly admit is practical.  I develop designs digitally, which means that it’s clean.  I can pick up and put down my physical work almost anywhere without having to clean up or manage materials in the way that a painter or ceramicist must.  I can stitch while spending every afternoon with my aged mother with whom I do not get on and have nothing to say – but she approves of the activity which thus keeps me sane. I love the feel of cloth, and appreciate the meditative qualities derived from repetitive stitching.

But it is not just that.  I’m interested in comfort and discomfort in human relationships, and for that reason domestic techniques and materials are an appropriate language for me to use at present.

 What I am much more interested in really is Is it good art?  And in a way the only person who can answer that is me.  Hey ho.

Connecting thread (by Olga Norris)

Crafts magazine, May/June 2010

The work of artist Maurizio Anzeri came to my attention in this magazine last year, with an article written by Jessica Hemmings.  And recently I found that an exhibition of his work is on at Baltic, Gateshead.   I am intrigued by uses of stitch, especially when not on cloth, because I wonder what it is that drew the artist to the needle and thread rather than to the pencil, pen, etc.

There is of course the added dimension of both the thread and its effect – in this case the latter being the holes caused by the needle.  So is this use of needle and thread rather than pen and line adding the active dimension of piercing and pulling.  Piercings on anonymous faces from the past, and is it a drawing out of their individuality in its unknown chaotic form, pulled out to form the imposed order of the stitched pattern?

Brigitte Family Album

And do they remind you as they do me of those so fashionable pictures made with nails and string on a dark background – when was that? 

To me these works by Anzeri are the dark side of stitching, somehow destructive of human sentiment because they take time, delicacy, precision, to overlay, to obliterate   Taking the tradition of pattern stitching, historically used to denote cultural difference, originally used in a positive way: treasured reminders of meaningful family moments, added to the similarly important marker of the photographic portrait – from years before the constant instant snapping of today – these spirographic doodlings may be attractive in an abstracted way, but I find them fundamentally cruel in outlook.

But we humans are a cruel species, and just as there is excessive sentimentality about photographs, so at the other end there is this twisting of view of what they might mean.   The artist Julie Cockburn also distorts found photographs, as well as sometimes embroidering on them.

Little one (left) Daydreamer

Mary (left) Warrior

 Is this kind of work yet another way in which an artist can say what others are feeling?  That far from venerating our ancestors and their aspirations for us, their progeny, we want to impose our own patterns on them retrospectively?  Is this form of art chosen because abstraction is not direct or personal enough?  The abstract can be taken in whatever way the observer wishes, such as in the work of  Alison Schwarz.

Untitled

This does not even have a title to point the viewer.  But the altered photographs link directly with every viewer in a very personal way. 

I managed to find a middle ground, using photograph and thread – although with nails this time, not specifically stitch – a use of collage/assemblage by Dayna Thacker.  Do we find this more attractive/acceptable?  And if we do, is it because we prefer to sugar our pills?

Birth of a Prophet

I think that use of traditional materials, domestic skills, and use of previously highly regarded cultural markers can be incredibly powerful semiotic tools in expressing ourselves today.

A publication and a publisher hit the dust (by Olga Norris)

From the age of four I wanted to be an artist.  Later I grew to appreciate writing in its various forms, and was lucky enough to have a fulfillingly creative career in publishing.  When the career became distinctly less creative I turned my attention more fully onto becoming more involved with personal expression.  This was aided and perhaps even specifically directed by an inspirational magazine I found while living in the USA in the very early 80s: Fiberarts.  

I did not turn to textiles immediately.  Such is the power of the accepted view of what being an artist is that I worked first in acrylics on paper.  But I subscribed to Fiberarts, just as I had subscribed to Crafts magazine for years previously.  It was a combination of my previous experience with textiles as a child, the constant inspiration and broadening of my thinking by reading Fiberarts, and the encounter with a fascinating exhibition entitled Art of the Stitch by the UK Embroiderers’ Guild which finally tipped me over.

 I found a voice of my own at the turn of the century, but the desire for incoming inspiration and information about the work of others, their expressions and their intentions has not diminished.  I am sad that Fiberarts is now no more.  I must admit that I have been expecting it ever since it was bought by a company which seemed primarily interested in enormous circulation; but I take no pleasure in being proved right.  I am only glad that the Internet is there to supply serendipitous delights – but what is missing there is critical nourishment.

 I had hoped some years ago that Telos books would grow into a list spanning from introductions to the artists in various countries using textile as their medium, through monographs on particular artists, to academic texts.  The visuals were stunning.  The design seductive, but the text was sadly lacking, and increasingly more so as the price increased.  Even a book addict hooked on art textiles stopped buying some years ago now.  So now Telos is also no more.

 Does this mean that there is no market for thoughtful, thought-provoking critical analysis within and about art which uses textile forms and techniques?  Have those of us who want to exchange thoughts more about intention than technique been swamped by the seemingly ever increasing thirst for the latter?  Is it out there and I’ve just missed it somehow?


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