à la ligne, string and thread on denim, stained with fabric dye and bleach, 10 x 8 inches
This semester I tried some new ways of working. The piece above was created for an assignment I had early in the semester. Our assignment was to create a painting inspired by a piece of art that we don't like. I first fell in love with painting when I saw impressionist paintings in high school, but have always disliked Renior. His chalky pastel palette is off-putting and his forms often lack definition. They're so etherial, like they're made of someone's hot breath.
But the assignment intrigued me. I started looking at his paintings online and came across the painting Le pêcheur à la ligne. I was drawn to the phthelo green + beige color palette and marks he used, so decided to try and reproduce those elements of the piece, minus the subject matter.
The first thing I did was turn the reproduction of the painting upside down as a way to isolate the colors and marks. Working from "back to front," I poured fabric dye on a canvas of stitched jeans that I had made earlier. Then I added some bleach to the dye. I worked back and forth until I created a "stain" to work on top of. Then I began adding lime green stitches to the denim using my sewing machine and drawing with a royal blue marker to describe some of the forms I observed, like the flittering leaves of the vegetation. Then, for several hours, I continued layering machine stitches, hand embroidery, and loose threads to the surface until the image felt resolved.
I really enjoyed the assignment. It was a practice in empathy. I learned to appreciate the technique of someone's work who I usually have a negative reaction to. It was a little like being locked in a room with an enemy and being forced to find common ground.
Left: A Piece of Me, A Piece of You, acrylic, spray paint, oil pastels, string and thread on sewn canvas and repurposed clothing, 18 x 22 inches Right: Love Quote, repurposed clothing and mesh on sewn canvas, stained with fabric dye, and oil on pre-primed canvas, 22 x 18 inches
I continued experimenting with mark-making throughout the semester. Above are two different examples of experiments in mark-making that I tried. On the left, I layered a lot of different colored sewing machine stitches on top of paint, spray-paint, and oil pastel until the colors began to blend together. This caused the canvas to warp and buckle. I had seen this technique several years ago in a video of Rebecca Ringquist explaining her process and knew that I wanted to try it at some point.
On the left, I created individual marks with the machine, dispersing them across the canvas. To me, they start to resemble letters or characters from an alphabet.
Detail of A Piece of Me, A Piece of You
I'm excited to have been selected to participate in the Sloane Art Program. The program was established in 2005 as a collaborative effort between Dr. Beverly Brown and the College of Fine Arts. The Browns seek to promote the talent and depth of those enrolled at CFA through showcasing work by its Visual Arts School students. Throughout the academic year, the Browns host multiple events attended by various prestigious guests, each of whom gets a tour of the current artwork exhibited. The home functions, in a sense, as a high-end gallery for the university’s student artists each semester.
Join me for an artist talk on Thursday, November 19 at 12pm.
Image: Working on Diamond IV in my studio.
November 4-20, 2020
25 Lowell St., Cambridge, MA 02138
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 5, 6:30-7:30 on ZOOM
For nearly 20 years, the Cambridge Art Association has hosted a fall exhibit, open to artists from the New England states, centered around a color--RED or BLUE, depending on the year. Both the success of the exhibit series, and the challenge to participating artists lies in channeling the varied meanings of a color like RED. It is the color of action, violence, heat. It is the color of luck, happiness, passion.
Image: A Case of You, 2018, oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches
I recently experimented with natural dye. I have been wanting to try this for a while and recently found some time to do it. The process was relatively simple and I LOVE the results!
The first step was to collect all of the skins. I collected the skins from at least a dozen onions over a couple of months. I stored them in an empty yogurt container (and later realized I could have kept them in the fridge, rather than on the counter).
Once I had enough, I put all of the skins in a large pot of water and set it to boil. (I boiled some of the water in an electric kettle to make this process go a bit faster. Once the water boiled, I turned the heat on low and let the skins sit for a couple of hours.
Next I strained the dye into a glass bowl and layered some canvas into the bowl. I put a glass jar of water on top of the canvas to press it down and set the bowl outside (so that the smell didn't stink up our apartment). I left the canvas to soak in the dye for a few ours, then removed it and let it air dry on top of a few plastic bags.
After the canvas dried, I brought it to my studio.
I decided to use some of the first batch of dyed fabric for one of my drawing assignments: to make a drawing response to a poem. I chose Mary Oliver's Song for Autumn. I love that I can feel her presence when I read her poetry. Like I am right there with her, traipsing through the marsh or walking by the sea.
In response to her poem, I created several drawings of trees at night. I wanted the experience of observing to come through and to experiment with my sensory experience of looking.
I transfered one of my drawings onto the canvas and then stitched the lines by hand.
This semester, I am taking a Contemporary Art class. Our first assignment was to write a paper in response to a recent show. With Tschabalala Self's recent ICA show "Out of Body," set to close at the beginning of September, I decided to visit the museum to see it in person before it closed. And I'm so glad I did! Below is a short excerpt from the art history paper I wrote in response to her work.
The Multiplicity of Selves in Tschabalala Self’s Out of Body Exhibition at the ICA Boston
Tschabalala Self’s show “Out of Body,” at the ICA Boston, takes its name from a sewn fabric painting of the same title. Out of Body (the painting) hangs at the entrance to the exhibit, a preview of the show’s overarching themes of creation, identity, representation, and multiplicity. The canvas is composed of two female figures standing opposite each other, as if looking in a mirror. The figure on the left, adorned with yellow fabric, patterned with pints of red strawberries, looks critically at the figure in front of her. Her hands outstretched, she is in the process of, “constructing her own avatar” (ICA wall text). In describing this painting, the wall text goes on to suggest, “Perhaps this [painting] is a self-portrait of the artist, who, in her self-assuredness, confidently fashions the shapes and pieces at hand into lively figures.” (ICA wall text) Nearly complete, the brick-red figure on the right, with shoulder-length blue hair, yellow eyebrows, and red fingernails stands upright on the heel of her black and white floral foot, which is attached to a hyperextend salmon-colored leg with a few simple stiches. The hyper-mobile limbs of the figure on the right remind me of the Barbies I used to play with as a little girl, and the stories I used to conjure up about who they were and what they were doing. Using my imagination, I could change the name, age, clothes, thoughts, and backstories of the dolls in front of me; each of them a container for an endless number of possible identities.
Like the characters in the writings of well-known author Zadie Smith, or the fictionalized self-portraits taken by contemporary photographer Cindy Sherman, in “Out of Body” (the ICA exhibition), Self’s figures, which span three galleries of the museum, can be read as representations of the artist’s multifaceted identity. In the essay “Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction,” Smith champions the ability of successful authors to provide a convincing portal into the experience the characters they craft, people who may or may not resemble the author and who may or may not resemble the reader. (Zadie Smith, “Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction,” October 24, 2019) In advocating for an author’s right to step outside of themselves, to step “out of body,” so to speak, and imagine other possibilities of personhood, Smith provides a productive framework for understanding Self’s portrait paintings.
The figures Self creates are artists, avatars, mothers, pedestrians, consumers, jocks, goddesses and icons. “Multiplicity—which the artist defines as the notion that we are all made up of fragments of memories and identities—is central to her formal vocabulary” (from the introductory wall text). In contrast to Smith, who takes pleasure in writing from the perspective of a vast array of characters, that include people who are, “adult and child, male and female, black, brown, and white, gay and straight, funny and tragic, liberal and conservative, religious and goddess, not to mention alive and dead,” (Smith), Self’s representations are more focused. Self’s primary concern is “the iconographic significance of the Black female body in contemporary culture.” (From the “About” section on Tschabalala Self’s website) Her canvases, wall silhouettes and sculptures, composed of abstracted figures, are inspired by personal narratives, her relationships with family members and friends, and the her upbringing in Harlem, NY. “I don’t have the interest, and nor do I think I could earnestly speak about another lived experience outside my own.” (“At the ICA, ‘Out of Body’ Explores Color and Texture of Black Life In Harlem,” Pamela Reynolds) In the galleries of her ICA show, Self creates a world in which her lived experience and artistic imagination coexist, a place where her observations, memories, and feelings about the people and places she cares about, provide the inspiration for the assembly of abstracted figures on display.
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November 4-20, 2020
25 Lowell Street, Cambridge, MA
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