As I approach my work, I use process and materials that are integral to the delivery of the concept and choose them as intentionally as the subject matter or imagery in the work. My concepts often deal with shared human experiences, and so I’ve chosen to use textiles in my work to make my materials familiar to my viewers. We understand fabrics and use them in our daily lives. We know how they feel. We place sentimental value on them based on who made them, who used them, or what significant event happened while wearing them. I love that my work is more likely to be touched and interacted with due to the nature of the materials. Textiles are tactile. We love to touch silks and we know the sensation of cotton and the warmth of wool.
I find value to be an interesting paradox when discussing art and the place of textiles in the art world. The history of fiber shows that humans used textiles to place value on objects and distinguish the relative importance of members of society. I know this by how textiles were depicted in other forms of art. Woven and stitched patterns are repeated in architectural designs in Mesopotamia. A woven headpiece was depicted on a stone carving of a Neolithic fertility goddess. Diaphanous finely woven material was represented on ancient Egyptian sculptures of pharaohs. The Unicorn Tapestries of Medieval times were gifts of courtship to nobility. And, great care was given to painting the rich fabrics worn by royalty and clergy in the Renaissance. Furthermore, blue indigo dye in textiles from the rare woad plant was reserved for the sacred and royal. My favorite example is Homer’s use of tapestry in the epic poem, “The Odyssey”, as a depiction of the very significant passage of time measured by Penelope awaiting the return of the hero, Odysseus. Textiles were valuable because time was and still is valuable. And, the hand creation of textiles is time intensive. Many in our culture choose to hand create gifts when they want to make something special, something sentimental, something that will become an heirloom to be passed down through generations. Despite all of this, common perception considers traditional painting and sculpture as fine art and textiles as home art or craft. Therefore, greater value is given to the former in proportion to time spent than the latter.
For this series of work, I’m attempting to challenge this common perception by creating “paintings” for which their significance relies upon the textile foundation. The woven material is equally if not more important to the work as the paint. The time and attention spent on the creation of the woven canvas far outweighs the time spent on the painted surface. The weavings are constructed from cotton, silk, and viscose rayon fabrics that I dye by hand to be the underpainting of the work. This “underpainting” gives the painting on the surface color and texture unachievable by the paint alone.
I choose the subject matter to best show off the benefits of the technique. Reflections in water and colors in the sky are illusions of layers of atmosphere and play of light. My woven paintings are based on layering and how the surface treatment is affected by what is beneath. I also chose subject matter that is familiarly beautiful like the materials giving foundation to the painting. Serene landscapes have a calming effect similar to music. By using abstract and literal depictions of landscapes, I’m striving for a visual effect that is comforting and enlightening.
For information on purchasing or commissioning a Woven Painting for your home or business, please contact me.