Artist, Designer, Traveler, Writer, Photographer

TEXTILE DESIGN

SILK, PAPER, AND CANVAS~MATERIAL MATTERS

After more than three years, I have updated the Page which previously was titled “Textile Design Notes and Gallery” is now PROCESS AND MATERIALITY~PAINTING AND DYEING.

The new Page illustrates my wish to dissolve boundaries between materials and processes, to broaden the ideas of what defines art as artists, “craftspeople”, designers, and Makers of all creative bents continue to show in the Twenty-First Century.

GEMSTONE dyed silk c.1997

GEMSTONE dyed silk c.1997   

“Gemstone”  is one of the first textiles which I considered as a unique work of art.

ARCHIPELAGO 2012 Acrylic on Okawara paper

ARCHIPELAGO 2012 Acrylic on Okawara paper

The newly-updated Page has links to Posts which show the evolution of early textile work to  recent acrylic paintings on paper and canvas.

PROCESS AND MATERIALITY~PAINTING AND DYEING

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NEBULA

While  work continues on the new book of inverted photographs, THE OTHER SIDE OF PARIS, there is also a new beginning in the painting. Although I had thought to move away from color to a pair in black and white, this new work was inspired by the addition of a fresh new color by Golden, Light Ultramarine Blue, one of their heavy body acrylics. While I normally prefer to use only Golden’s fluid acrylics, this particular color is not available in that form. Perhaps this is fortuitous, as I am enjoying the buttery texture and find it blends well with the fluid acrylics.

NEBULA continues the staining process of the preceding paintings, RED DELTA and TIDEMARK. I’ve decided to document the process a bit and so keep the camera at hand for rather candid photos as I progress. From these the thought process, the decisions that are made, can be seen.

NEBULA –Day One        acrylic on canvas  30 x 30 inches

The small white areas are thick drops of fluid acrylic, as in the previous works, standing as gem-like centers for flurries of marks to come.

Some days into the painting brings a bit of intensity to the colors, and a search for pattern.

As I continue painting I realize that the link between the textile work and the painting remains strong. This painting has the range of color and appearance of a long-ago textile, dye on silk that was one of my first efforts. I often remarked that it was actually a painting on silk.

GEMSTONE       Fiber-reactive dye on silk habotai

Writing this, I am reminded of something that Louise Bourgeois wrote long ago and which I noted in one of my journals, perhaps mid-Seventies. I was searching then to find “clues” from the thoughts and writing of other artists whose works I found intriguing. To paraphrase, I believe she wrote that as artists “All we do is repeat and repeat and repeat.”  These words echo often in my own thoughts as I now look back on my own work. Our repetition may exist but hopefully we find that our “vocabulary” of imagery grows larger and continues to be inventive. The richness of our thinking can expand this vocabulary, to create what I like to think of as “The Richest Expression”. Which all leads back to my basic question, “How do the material and process affect the meaning in art?”


TIDEMARK

The new painting, which I call “Tidemark: Clear Blue”, reveals one more example of how work develops and how, over time, links to much earlier work can be seen.This painting follows the directly-previous paintings such as  DREAMING OF INDIA, a triptych and related smaller paintings which combine thin washes with thick applications of fluid acrylic “dots” and the rather obsessive small marks which search out and form patterns. The painting is actually a re-working of an early “web” painting, “Clear Blue” which I painted in 2004 but never felt quite sure had reached its definitive state. The original painting’s use of the triangular cream and white stitch-mark is revealed under the thin veils of color painted over it.

This photo shows the middle stage of the painting as I began to layer thin washes which left a darker edge or “tidemark” as the pools of fluid acrylic dried.

I realized as I worked on the painting that the staining and puddles of color and resulting tidemarks were much like a particular technique I used in my hand-dyed textiles years ago.

The next photo shows the technique in textile dyeing for which the painting is named. A tidemark in textile design is often a negative result in which dark edges in the dyed area appear as salts and chemicals dry. I decided to make use of this effect to my advantage and created one of my earliest designs by utilizing this “fault”.

PETRA     Fiber-reactive dye on habutai silk     36 x 36 inches

Below, the finished painting with details:

TIDEMARK  acrylic on canvas  48 x 24 inches

DETAIL

DETAIL

Allowing the puddles of paint to dry results in edges which form “fences” like the tidemarks in the textile dyeing process. Putting color on cloth in textiles using tidemarks clearly offers similar expressive opportunities in what is thought of as painting in a more formal sense. Without realizing I was again blurring the boundaries of “fine art” and “craft/design”.


“FOLLOWING THE THREAD”

Artists are often asked how they know when a work is finished. The same question can be applied to a long-term endeavor in which a body of work develops over time such as my six-year plus project “THE THREADS PROJECT“. In this project I attempted to bridge my interest in fine art and textiles. This also adressed what I felt was then the disparity in value given to works created using textiles, thread, and materials related to them.

Nearing the latter part of this project I began to do drawings that I could see evolved from the theme of “stones”that I used in textile pieces, works on paper, drawings, and paintings.

BLACK DRAWING I

These relate in particular to “The Black Drawings ” which are pastel drawings that derived directly from the theme of “stones” in the Threads pieces. The imagery was removed from the context used in the Threads pieces and taken to another level of meaning, as I described in my statement for The Drawing Center\’s Viewing Program :

Artist Statement

THE BLACK DRAWINGS 

THE BLACK DRAWINGS continue the theme begun in 2001 in an extensive body of work, THE THREADS PROJECT. In this project I wanted to combine my interest and experience with textiles and surface design with my fine art practice. I combined textile elements with drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, mixed-media works on paper, books, and digital drawing.

RIVER, STONES 2003-2004 (see detail below) is a significant textile work from this project which used acrylic and thread as drawing elements. The stone motif was black cotton. This stone motif appeared also in drawings and paintings in the project and has continued. In the 2007 BLACK DRAWINGS the shape of the stone has been removed from the original context and found new permutations. These black images recall not only the solidity of the earth but also summon human imagery, both seen and unseen. These are images of change and transformation, whether within the physical realm or beyond.

 Over time it has become important to me as an artist to trace the “history” of ideas and works. Even though my work involves many media and techniques, there is an underlying aesthetic that marks the work as my own. When the long-term “Threads Project” began to wind down after more than six years, I found it interesting to see what direction the work would take and in what media. At first glance these new paintings seem very different from those earlier works, but on second look, there are strong relationships between the textile-oriented works and the new acrylic on canvas paintings.

In 2008 I began a new series of paintings. These became intensely-colored works using fluid acrylics on canvas. The first pieces were small, rather like the experimental “Lab Pieces done early in The Threads Project. I suppose they could be called studies but they are completed works which begin the exploration on a smaller scale.

“Small Dreaming of India” 2008  10 x 10 inches

I began by pouring the fluid acrylic onto the canvas with thick drops that were “melted” with sprays of water. These and other thick drops of pigment were allowed to dry before proceeding with the complex process of layering of marks began.

The obsessive layers of small marks relate strongly to the textile pieces in which stitches are built in much the same complex process to create the image.

detail from “River, Stones” 2003-2004  Tulle, cotton, acrylic, thread on silk mounted to cotton 35 x 68″

 “River, Stones” 2003-2004  Tulle, cotton, acrylic, thread on silk mounted to cotton 35 x 68″

“Dreaming of India” 2008  One of three in the triptych of the same name, acrylic on canvas, each 36 x 24 inches

         

The triptych, seen in a recent exhibition, “Colors of the Universe” at Mishin Fine Arts , San Francisco. (The exhibition also featured a selection of paintings from THE THREADS PROJECT.)

The title of the triptych, “Dreaming of India” reflect the gorgeous and intense colors seen on my first trip to India taken just as the series of new paintings were under way.

An important idea about relating the textile works to the paintings, drawings, and works on paper is that they respond to a basic question that was a foundation of my search in “The Threads Project”, “How do the material and process used affect the meaning of a work? One could also ask “How do the material and process affect the value, the perceived value of a work?”

So these questions are interesting  to consider when looking at the evolution of ideas and the means used to achieve them. Would these paintings be perceived differently if they had been created using a similar kind of imagery but executed in fabric and thread? Would there be a different aesthetic response? Are the differences, if any, considered positive or negative? Whatever the answers are it is clear that the unifying element of the hand and mind of the artist, the intention, form a unique and cohesive body of work over time.


“DESCRIBERE”

Merriam-Webster has a wonderful definition:

” de·scrip·tion”

From the Middle English descripcioun, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin description-, descriptio, from describere.

Date: 14th century

An act of describing; specifically : discourse intended to give a mental image of something experienced.”

This “act of describing” is a primary task of the artist. Whether the description is rendered in prose or poetry, in a play or film, in music, dance or in the form of painting or sculpture, we attempt to describe  what we know, what we have experienced.

“Discourse intended to give a mental image of something experienced.” In the larger sense of “giving a mental image” we are free to express what we know in whatever way suits our intentions, our inclinations, and our skills.

As I continue my survey of work from the past decades I have shared drawings, paintings, prints, sculpture, book-forms, and textile pieces. I have been fortunate to be able to express my experiences in poems and prose as well. I am able to use a camera to capture experience in my own way. What comes to mind is the question “Why do we choose a particular means, material, or form to express this experience?”

Early in the work for “The Threads Project” I made a simple textile piece. It came to be known as “Tender Threads”. This was a rather narrow length of white gauze upon which I unspooled plain white thread, allowing the thread to fall softly onto the gauze. I covered the entire surface and carefully sewed it in random places just enough to secure it to the cloth. The edges of the cloth were free, with fine fringes of the gauze’s threads echoing the carpet of loose white threads on the surface.

Some time later a neighbor inquired about my work and asked if she might see what I was doing. So we had an “art afternoon” and I shared some of the current pieces. When we came to this newly-finished piece her reaction was most unexpected: tears. But somehow I was not surprised. Beyond the immediate visual characteristics of this simple cloth and thread were layers of  association that evoked deep emotion. Reflecting on this now I wonder if a painting or drawing would draw such an effect. Or words? I somehow think that perhaps only music would be able to draw a similar sensation of evoking memory in such a profound way. Perhaps the cloth holds the most elemental, tactile memories of earliest life when a sense of love, security, and our introduction to the physical world is formed.

I have  seldom felt the need to question which form an idea would take to best express myself. Somehow the proper form has been spontaneously given, that is until I began “The Threads Project”. Within this work lay the question which has directed many artists of our time, and I put this in the simple way that I have approached things: “Do the material and means affect the meaning?”

It seems clear to me that they do. That is not to say that one way is right and the other wrong. We live in glorious times when the material used to express our experience can be as varied as our ideas….from the earthy, tactile, and sensual to the purest mental concept, we are permitted to describe in the way which most suits the idea and the intention. One needs only to turn back the clock a hundred years to see how unlimited the range of expression has become…the book and page, the canvas, the stage, the stone and metal, all these are joined by moving images, by electronic image and sound, by no sound or image at all. And all are permitted “to describe” the huge range of experience that is available now to all. We still have the museum, the white box of a gallery, the black box of the theater. But now the experience is far more inclusive.

In my special love of drawing we are now permitted to think outside those boxes. A drawing can come from fire, smoke, and rain. From drips and stains and scratches. And from thread and wax as well as the familiar pencil and pen. And each way evokes a particular response.

“The Threads Project” was begun to address the question of disparity between “fine art” and “craft” with my particular emphasis on textiles. In the course of exploring this premise the work has led me to want to understand the significance of the means and the material that we choose to express our ideas- our experiences.

It seems fitting then to ponder this question as I continue to “mine the material” and share my work, whether in the form of drawing and painting, or textiles, or photographs, or in the written word.

All are meant to describe in whatever form is taken.

Below, from 2007, a “self-portrait”….a shadow, insubstantial, captured by the lens and shutter, created only by the absence of light~

How amazing that this  detail from a drawing from another decade echoes this silhouette idea~

Detail from “VISITORS”   pastel on black paper

And the 1979 drawing in colored pencil takes this back even further~

SELF-PORTRAIT (RED ANGEL)  1979

The link, the unique sensibility of each artist, gives the point of view, the cohesive nature of a life’s experience. We can, at some point, take a moment to look back and see the path we have taken in our quest to describe.


THE ANALOGY SERIES-RIVER, STONES

One of the major themes of ” THE THREADS PROJECT” is the concept of analogies, things which look alike or share similar characteristics. The idea for using analogous images was one of the original methods in The Threads Project for blurring the distinction between art and craft by pairing images which used elements from both. The viewer would then find it difficult to make an immediate judgment of value when viewing the work. This idea expanded over time to go beyond pairs.

With the analogy idea in mind, I decided to begin a tall, vertical series of pieces that would combine paper and cloth supports and combine fine art materials and techniques with textile elements. In my original notes of 4/4/2003, I list many options for materials and methods such as paper, canvas, organdy, Pellon, and screenprinting fabric. I contemplated using resist and discharge methods, sgraffito,  layers, frottage, and collage. With these I considered using acrylic, airbrush ink, pastel, molding paste, crayon, and thread.

I envisioned the series as four, six or more vertical pieces, each  roughly six feet high by three or four feet wide and relating to each other perhaps by motif and color as well as a mix of media and supports. The first completed piece was a pastel and acrylic paper on my favorite paper, Japanese Okawara, titled “Analogy I-Forest”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANALOGY I-FOREST 2003  Pastel and acrylic on Okawara paper  72 x 39.5″

The branch-like motif relates to earlier work using a twig-like motif in textile pieces and drawings (see “Old Traditions, New Art”). The layers of “stones” at the lower edge of the work would be a theme for many works in many media in the future.

The branch-like motif relates to earlier work using a twig-like motif in textile pieces and drawings (see “Old Traditions, New Art”). The layers of “stones” at the lower edge of the work would be a theme for many works in many media in the future.

“River, Stones” (below) was intended as the second in this series. Here I began by using a tightly-woven silk and black fluid acrylic paint, making gestural strokes on the surface. Over a period of six months, with many moments of uncertainty, I began to build up the surface. Black cotton for the “stones”, layers of various colored tulle and stitches binding all together. In the end, I realized that this could not be a vertical piece; it was in fact, a memory of a little river I had lived on shortly before. I had stood overlooking it watching the schools of fish, aquatic plants, and sunlight playing through the currents.

RIVER, STONES resized

  RIVER, STONES  2003-2004  Acrylic, cotton, tulle, thread, on silk mounted to cotton 35 x 68″

I realize, looking now at the professional photos taken of this that much of the dimensional quality of the surface is lost. So I have taken detail photos to eliminate the flat quality and give an idea of how the surface is affected by the stitches and the paint. There is, in fact, a more relief-like effect created by allowing these methods to react to the silk.

The next two works in the “Analogy” Series would not come until some time later, with “Analogy II-Shards” and “Analogy III-Terrain” created in 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANALOGY II-SHARDS 2006  Acrylic, pastel, marker on unprimed canvas  79.5 x 48″

Here the “twig-mark” motif has given way to the motif which evolved from the “stitch-mark”, the triangular stitch that began in textile pieces and soon morphed into drawings, paintings, and works on paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANALOGY III-TERRAIN  2006  Acrylic on Okawara paper  72.75 x 39.5″


THE THREADS PROJECT:CROWN POINT PRESS

CROWN POINT PRESS

PAIRS AND ANALAGOUS IMAGERY

Some of the earliest works that were “breakthrough” pieces were made or begun at a workshop I attended at Crown Point Press in San Francisco in the summer of 2001. These are etching workshops in which the participants have at their disposal the expertise and facilities of master printers in one of printmaking’s premier workshops.

In the 2001 workshop the ideas which were to result in more than six years of continuing work found a fertile ground for development.

In the five days of the workshop we had the freedom to use methods and materials as we wished. I experimented with the possibilities of aquatint and chine-colle\’.

I noticed that the surfaces of aquatints bore a close resemblance to some of my hand-dyed fabrics. This inspired me to use this information in my search for a means to develop my ideas for blurring the borders of “art” and “craft”, in this case, using textiles and textile-related elements such as thread.

I decided that I would use the format of pairs and analagous images to prevent the viewer from making judgments of value based on material and process. The discovery of the similarity of my cloth and the aquatints gave my my first opportunity to do this.

RUST I   2001     Hand-dyed cotton, aquatint etching     4.5 x 3.5″

TULLE I (top) and  TULLE II  2001   tulle, thread, hand-sewn to blind-embossed paper, and colored pencil on silk, with chine-colle’   Each image: 14 x 12.5″

This pair resulted in my attempt to chine-colle’ a fabric composition to dressmaker’s silk onto the Somerset printmaking paper. I had created a folded and machine-stitched piece of tulle, a material used for bridal veils. The layers of tulle, silk, and paper with a traditional adhesive were run under the press. (A first for “bridal veil material” I was assured by one of our master printers.) This was the last day of the workshop and all were hurrying to complete our projects. With the idea that I would later create an “analagous” drawing or other work to accompany this piece, I quickly blind-embossed a blank sheet, making a well into the paper that would provide the place for the future drawing.  The workshop came to a close and our last works were put on racks to dry.

When I returned to pick up my pieces the next week I discovered that the nylon tulle and thread had pulled off the surface of the silk. Left behind, however, was the imprint of the fabric and lines of thread. Later, looking at this and realizing that I also had the blind-embossed sheet of identical size, I added light pewter green Prismacolor pencil to the silk to highlight the imprint. I then hand-sewed the released fabric composition in the well of the blind-embossed sheet.

 

ONE RED  2001   Thread on aquatint etching, mounted to paper with pumice, acrylic  Image: 14 x 12″ Sheet: 30  22″

Detail: ONE RED  2001

The fortuitous discovery of “thread-like” imagery on a colleague’s discarded aquatint proofs, found in the trash, led to an unusual “collaboration”. My colleague, Joe Novak, had tossed out a number of aquatints because of undesirable “thread-like” lines in them. But these inspired me to want to “re-purpose” them into something suitable to my own work. With his permission, I began experimenting with a number of proofs of various sizes. Included were aquatints and soft-ground etchings.

“One Red” resulted when I trimmed Joe’s proof  to just outside the platemark and added several black threads and “one red”. The piece was rather “un-anchored” so I mounted it to an earlier, unsuccessful drawing and then added a crusty black pumice to the margin around the etching.

THREADS: TANGLE  2001  Thread on etchings, hand-sewn Each 6.75 x 5″ (Joe Novak)

THREADS FOR JOE  2001    Threads, acrylic medium on aquatint  mounted to paper 10 x 6.75″ (Joe Novak)

THREADS: SURFACE  2002   Acrylic on aquatint etching  17.5 x 15.5″

“Threads For Joe” was one of the first uses of actual thread to create an entire image. The surface of etchings on the beautiful Somerset paper also proved to be wonderfully receptive to painting with fluid acrylics, as in “Threads: Surface” done on one of my own aquatints in the 2001 workshop and altered later in 2002. Many more permutations of these ideas were done using etchings, my own, and Joe’s to explore the possibilities for threads imagery.

I also made a number of “straight” etchings during the workshop, including this unique impression:

THREADS I  2001    Softground etching with manipulation of the ink on the plate  14 x 12.5″

This etching uses soft-ground etching, a method in which a soft, receptive coating is applied to the plate. Objects impressed into this under the pressure of the press can then be etched, inked, and printed giving finely-detailed image of the objects. I used a thread-like material first and when inking the etched plate, manipulated it so that the resulting impression was unique (or “one-of-a kind”). (The process is actually similar to what happened when I tried to chine-colle’ the tulle-thread piece in “Tulle I and II”.)

Most of the impressions made during the Crown Point Press workshop were done as unique impressions, with the exception of a series of the Rust impressions. With these I experimented none-the-less, printing in various color combinations and as single images without the fabric mate.

The wonderful atmosphere and respect for individual needs and aesthetics in the workshop helped tremendously in facilitating my work during those five days. The workshop helped set a tone of inventiveness and the synthesis of new methods for what was to eventually become “The Threads Project”. Many more works of a similarly-experimental approach were to come, but the use of pairs and analagous images was first established here.

My book What The Surface Reveals-The Threads Project 2001-2007, which documents “The Threads Project” will give a more complete look at this work. This can be seen in its entirety at the Blurb.com Bookstore.