The act of making cloth is a document of the movement of an individual through material. Woven cloth is the manifestation of the intersection of time, thread and action. The interlocking of threads builds a chronology, unit by unit: the past, wound up in the created cloth; the present, exposed and claiming structure; the future, stretched ahead, threads uncertain.
Felt, another mode of cloth production, is an anti-fabric. It rejects the processes of order (like spinning, interlocking, threading), and is born out of the unpredictable chaotic connection of spiral strands of fibers/hairs. These fibers, from disorder, constrict and entangle to form a dense textile structure.
To me, these textile methods are a parallel to the way humans conduct interactions and build shared experience. A person is a hair or a thread, interlocking into another, and then another, resulting in a fabric of human experience. My work addresses the ideas of unit and structure in cloth making as a metaphor for the contradictory duality and tension of the human condition.
I discovered the textile medium when I was looking for a direction away from the untouchable commodity of the art object. I felt at odds with the systems created for art viewing, and I avoided showing work in a traditional gallery setting. I wanted the experience of a work to be sensual and tactile, as well as visual, which a physical distance does not allow. I began making “blankets” as objects, charged with functionality, history and object-significance in order to defy the often-times impersonal experience of the viewer. The possibility that the physical weight and the surface of the material would be touching the body of another was the ultimate realization of the object itself. In woven cloth, the material tension created by the criss-crossing of multidirectional threads is the tactile articulation of the space between utility and art, giving voice to the tension and conflict of its dual status.
The narrowing and loss of textile traditions in contemporary manufacturing has had the effect of desensitizing the skin. Similarly, in a world where connections and exchanges between people are conducted through non-physical communication, the act of haptic exchange becomes critical.
A further exploration of this idea led me to the process of saponification, by which an alkali is mixed with fat to create soap. Soap, like a blanket, is an object that sees the most intimate places of the human body. It is rubbed on the body, a supposed dirty body, and shared with other bodies. The record of its history is only present in its usage and reduction, as it washes away. Walter Gropius describes “an object quietly serving,” but I feel there is a more telling subversion that should be acknowledged in these objects.
The technique of felting brings together soap and fiber, as fiber requires soap to create its interlocking structure. Again we experience the metaphor: soap becomes the link in creating connection. My last body of work was all made with this process, and in February of 2018, I had the opportunity to show with Cleopatra’s, an alternative art space in New York run by four exceptional women. I plan on expanding on this theme by pushing the boundaries of fibers, soap and the object in my upcoming work.