"Inheritance" is currently on exhibit at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts in Princeton, New Jersey. It's one of four works I shipped for the fiber art invitational "Every Fiber of My Being," curated by Diana Weymar and including work from Maira Kalman, Cassie Jones, Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, Danielle Hogan and Katie Truk. Let's just say I'm blown away to be in such company. Check them out.
This post is a brief exploration of the visual dynamic and thought process behind the making of "Inheritance," which I started in the summer of 2015, abandoned for many months, then completed in the winter of 2016.
Plus, I'll explore some misunderstandings.
Like this one: old, dated, even poorly made items of unknown origin and/or maker aren't worth salvaging.
Here's another misunderstanding: imperfections in one's handwork should be ripped out and re-sewn.
And this is what I do understand, deeply: Sometimes we have to circle around the heart of a problem many times. Sometimes the right words aren't the first to come. Sometimes you have to put work aside and be patient.
Then one has to figure out how to apply those words to a situation, and this can take a long time, too.
And then there is the misunderstanding of the words, themselves. Like when your daughter, age 7, has worked out the language on the wall and comes to you all wobbly chinned and eyes flashing, fists at her sides, hissing: "You made that art because of us, didn't you?"
And then one has to clear up the misunderstanding of voice: "I could say this to you, right?"
"You have," she says, wiping her nose.
"Okay. But what if you said it to me?"
"What if a man said it to a woman, or to an old woman?"
"What if a child said it to an old man?"
And then, "What if I said it to the cat?" she says.
There are messes she can't even conceive of. And misunderstandings that lay in her path, hidden, waiting for her to stumble over.
And the fears I have as a mother, the things I possess and need to pass on to my children -- the tangible and intangible parts of myself and my history, the living questions and my own misunderstandings, that Inheritance -- how can all this be best shaped for clarity?
How can my intent and my will be made relevant?
How do you create a work -- a body of work -- that prods at this from all angles while striving for purity and emotional resonance?
And how do you use old fabrics, old skills, in ways that feel contemporary and vital? How does the valueless become valuable?
And here's a final misunderstanding: How do you convince people that the needle really is supposed to hang there like that on the finished work? I picked up this piece from the last gallery and some well-meaning art connoisseur -- or a very tidy sewer -- had stabbed it into the canvas.
Mess. Even the idea of it provokes the muscle's response.
If you are interested in other posts like this (note that I don't lay out step-by-step how tos because I believe we're all really smart people around here and can figure things out visually) please scroll through the How To or Process categories there in the side bar. Any of the posts in the Histories category will take you to other artistic backstories if you're curious.
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