Saturday, August 13, 2016

Material as Reliquary

Detail from Mother/Daughter, 2016.  Embroidery thread and hair on cotton, 14" x 18"

From a recent application:

My artwork is about experience, both public and private, for both myself and the viewer/participant.  Obviously there is my own experience of making the work, which is sometimes at the center of the piece, such as in some of my laborious, handmade works where part of the premise of the piece is its very handmade-ness, the process of making, the meaning of time versus labor, and the appearance of the artist’s hand in the work.  Sometimes I begin with that and then offer it outward by inviting the viewer to become a participant in the labor, to devote some of their own time to the project, to include their hand in the final piece.  And sometimes I step back once the piece has begun and almost obliterate my own presence so that the project can be carried along by experiences of others.  I become a catalyst between the idea and the viewer – the spark that sets the experience in motion but then gets dissolved in the process.
 What this looks like (because I am, after all, a visual artist) varies.  It has looked like a mile-long, handknit road stripe laid on a street in Dallas, TX.  It has looked like a house museum for tourists and locals to interact on the western coast of Newfoundland.  It has been hand-dyed, handspun yarn knit into hats by people of all ages and backgrounds, shared among each other and with homeless women and children in the Bronx.  It has looked like over five kilometers of handknitting installed by a highway in South Korea.  It has looked like a fun house created in a university gallery in South Dakota.
 More recently, I have been experimenting with subtler ways of presenting this idea of how we record our experiences for ourselves and each other.  Most of my work over the past 15 years has been increasingly outward-looking even, as I mentioned, to the point where the artwork is entirely dependent on the participation of the audience and my presence is no longer necessary or visible.  Now I am curious if a similar result can be created via more inward-looking means.
 As I have been stitching down locks and strands of hair that once belonged to Lucy (when she was about eight I think), I have been thinking about how the materials themselves can be the container for the experience.  Lucy's hair is an expression of her life as an eight year old - what she ate, how she slept and played and felt - it's all in there.  To me, it feels sacred to work with such materials: material as reliquary.

No comments: