Saturday, July 27, 2019

Juxtaposed

"Second Skin".  2019
Participated in a group show last month at Flow called "Juxtaposed" and it was an opportunity to finally try true self portraits of me under my weaving.

"Bimorph".  2019

"Second Skin II".  2019
Here is my statement for the show:
“The concept of juxtaposition pushed me to try an idea I’ve had for some time, to make photographs of the fabric I weave from stainless steel draped over a human body, juxtaposing inert metal cloth against living tissue.  This speaks to a theme I have been working with in my weaving, using fabric to explore the relationship of the physical space of our body to the spirit that inhabits it: fabric as skin.  This includes the exoskeletons we construct to keep out what we do not wish to absorb as well as the supple layers we nurture in order to transmute and emit our energy back out into the biosphere.  I am finding that photography allows me to capture and freeze an instance of light interacting with my fabrics, and it is this essence, the fleeting qualities of reflectivity and translucence, which I most want to convey.”

Friday, June 7, 2019

Synelindesthesia

Since doing the show "Synesthesia" at Flow in 2014, I've tuned in more closely to my own grapheme-color synesthesia, making this color wheel which orders the way I see the letters of the alphabet.  Of course, I don't actually "see" letters in color literally but rather in mind's eye, where each letter has always been conceived of in a certain color.  There's lots of research of late into the phenomenon of all of the forms of synesthesia, of which grapheme-color is one of the the most common forms (see the Wikipedia on it for more info).  Like most synethestes, I didn't think too much of it - just thought everyone had their own version of letter/number color associations and how they see numbers and time (like decades) in space.  My husband also has it with numbers, and some of the numbers match mine - 5 is orange for example.  Curious if anyone reading this has it.  Anyway, until finally putting the colors for the letters down on paper, I never had paid attention to know that all my vowels were either black, grey or white.  So I started thinking about using words as a point of departure for drawings.  I noted the colors associated with my own name S (gold), E (black), L (white and black), I (black), N (orange), D (green), E (black) and started working with them in the drawing below which became How My Heart Spells its Human Name: 


 And when I say gold, I mean metallic, glinty, flakes off the page gold, as in medieval illuminations:
"Die Huldigenden Nationen" from the Gospels of Otto III

As I drew, I realized, I was making another picture of my heart , this time as an alchemical vessel, circulating and weaving energy like venous and arterial blood, and emanating it back out into space.
“How my Heart Spells its Human Name”. Oil pastel, gouache and tempera, watercolor pencil on paper. 66” x 53.5”. 2019.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Two in One Text-iles

"Red Veil."  Stainless steel, linen, silk, bamboo, copper.

































Here I go again - just took this piece off the loom and couldn't resist photographing it interacting with natural light.  I like this one.  It reminds me of a Jack-in-the-pulpit.  

I'm increasingly unable to conceive of my woven work in any final form without an intentional interaction with light.  By using a camera, I can freeze an instance of light/fabric interaction.  This is beginning to feel like the goal, rather than having any particular 2 or 3D piece that works in any environment.  There is more that I could say about the camera abstracting fabric from its instant recognition as such, allowing it greater freedom to speak as a medium unfettered by all that the word "textile" attributes to it, and about the camera merging two picture planes into one, so that the image becomes neither a picture of a weaving nor its background, but rather one of combined colors and textures, rather like drawing with a weaving.  And there is assuredly something to this merging of two layers that is reminiscent of my coverlet wallhangings - two layers woven as one but speaking separate languages or maybe dialects.  But the most important piece for me right now is that I cannot let the light go.  So I photograph and photograph until I am sated and then begin the process of forming the fabric into three dimensions.


Stainless steel, silk, linen, copper, bamboo
Photo by Kurt Schmidt

Meanwhile, I am becoming more intentional with what I write on the fabric in the burnout chemical.  It is very cathartic as I can write whatever I want to, knowing that the words will be unreadable in the final product, as the chemical tends to bleed into a blurry mass that bears no resemblance to the words I wrote.  I have tended to dismiss this part of my process, just making any mark in order to create visual effect.  But now I am realizing the power of being a woman, writing words onto a text-ile that will be unreadable.  This speaks to feelings of vulnerability, fear of exposure, need for privacy.  I welcome writing in an unreadable script because I get to describe, define my self and my feelings for my self.  This feels like a very feminist act.  It means I am wholly unavailable for outside interpretation.  If you follow my logic of late, that I am trying to weave my skin, then if cloth is the body, and text-ile is text then I am writing my body, recreating it to my own specifications, giving it complete agency over the space it inhabits.

Realizing this raises the work to a sacred place for me.  Nor do these pieces have to be only self-referential.  I realize I can treat this process like casting spells.  I can write wishes for others, for the world even, burn out the words, sculpt the form and give the words a safe place to reside.  If weaving is manifesting space over time, then by adding words into the piece, I am manifesting my deepest desires.  Which, I have learned, is ultimately to make the intangible, tangible.  






Thursday, November 15, 2018

What's in a Year?


A year has flown since my last post. 
"To The Moon."  Oil pastel, watercolor pencil, india ink on paper


It's been a watershed.
"View of the Interior."  Oil pastel, graphite, pen and ink, india ink on paper.


I came home to myself. 
"Pain."  Oil pastel, watercolor pencil, pen and ink, marker on paper.


I rested and gave myself space and time.
"Alighting."  Oil pastel, marker, watercolor pencil on paper.  


I acknowledged my deep yearning for color and considered never weaving again.
"The Transfusion."  Oil pastel, watercolor pencil, marker, egg yolk on paper.

I read incessantly about women painters - Hilma af Klint, Remedios Varo, Mary Corse, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Suzanne Valadon, Pamela Coleman Smith, Christina Ramberg, Joan Brown, Gwen Abercrombie (the last three courtesy of Donna Seaman's Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists).  Revisited Lenore Tawney, Louise Nevelson and Lia Cook.


"The Beginning."  Oil pastel, watercolor pencil, pen and ink on paper







Since it was already woven, I started working with the stainless steel and cotton yardage that I had woven before my move in August 2017 in the hope that it would ease my transition (I was right).  I began with The Beginning, fashioning this little ribbon piece into a 3D version of the drawing "The Beginning" above I had made six months earlier.


"Ariadne's Thread."  Stainless steel, cotton, wool.
Before long I was back at it, forming these cylindrical "skins".
"Ariadne's Thread."  Detail.


Ariadne's Thread got me out of the labyrinth and back into the cosmos.  Those grey skins were getting droopier and droopier - where was the life?  So I took my last section of yardage and burned off all of the grey cotton and what emerged was light itself.

"Laniakea."  Stainless steel.  


















The Summer Solstice saw the opening of my first solo show at Flow.  An honor to show up in the community where I had participated and grown artistically over the last 10 years.



This fall has seen me focused in the studio and I feel like I've regained the energy I had been lacking over the last few years.  I'm no longer trying to pigeonhole myself into weaver/ painter/ fiber artist.  I chafe against those labels.  Gonna stick with artist.  Certainly woman artist.  Yeah. That feels right.

Untitled.  Stainless steel, cotton.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Embodied


Looking back over the year, I feel like time has slowed to a crawl.  The spring was, well, spring-like, in that my new work got shown in a biennial in Georgia.  Huge for me to get shown outside of North Carolina and with the new work to boot.  The summer bloomed even brighter, when I found out that "Chrysalis" had made the cut for the Surface Design Association's biennial in Sebastopol, CA, judged by none other than Jason Pollen.  



Suddenly I was in a show with Virginia Davis, one of the artists on my IT list.  For days I felt like I was floating on air.  I packed up my piece and sent it out, this time understanding all the ins and outs of mailing work to shows, like the little detail of enclosed pre-paid return labels.  Since I didn't fly across the country for the opening, I decided to look it up on Facebook.  I don't have an account anymore but I was nevertheless able to see almost 50 pictures that someone posted of each wall of the show, so I could get a good handle on how it had been curated - an expertly hung show that represented a good cross-section of fiber arts in North America (even though the show called itself International, it was primarily US-based artists).  And as I virtually walked through the show, I had a very surprising reaction; I felt disappointed.  I had the sinking feeling that this was not what I had wanted after all.  Was it really true that getting shown nationally by a renowned jury was not the gold at the end of my rainbow?  Was it imposter's syndrome, feeling that I somehow didn't deserve to be there?  Had I moved ahead so fast that some unforeseen emotional risk had been violated and I was feeling too vulnerable?  

I don't think it was any of those things.  I think I am getting closer to the answer now but all I knew back at the beginning of August was that I had to go back to the drawing board.  Something was missing.  Something very crucial.  I started to go through my studio, read back issues of Fiber Arts and TextilForum, rifle through piles of things that I had been shoving around for years and sort sort sort.  By the time September came, I knew I was cleaning out in order to move.  I was shedding old skin.  It was time to move my studio back home after nine years in Marshall.  

Two months later finds my dobby loom stashed in the barn and my necessaries whittled down to what will fit into a postage stamp-sized space.  And yet I have a sense of spaciousness and peace that I never had when I had a whole classroom at my disposal.  Part of it is literal - I have the weight of a rent payment off my mind.  But there is something much bigger, which has more to do with letting myself out of the role of weaver/ fiber artist.  I think the California show made me see that I want to be just an artist, fiber or no fiber.  Make no mistake - I was honored to be chosen for the show.  But I find I do not want to be labelled or stashed neatly into a box.  Put me into a box and the first thing I will want to do is get out.  I am claustrophobic to the core.  

"If I were put in a box"
watercolor pencil, oil pastel, pen and ink on paper
2014
Right before I moved out of MHS, I wove 10 feet of cotton stainless steel plain weave.  I finally found a stainless steel yarn that would work in the warp without breaking.  I had been looking for this yarn since I had started the skin pieces in 2015, after discovering that the linen version would break after a foot or so of beating and lifting.  Finding this yarn would allow me to make much larger pieces.  I had read somewhere that the human body on average fits into 20 square feet of skin, and I thought that amount would be a good place to start for a larger piece.  So I wove it out, hating every minute of being on the loom, but knowing I would appreciate having the finished product there to start working with once I got settled at home.  It wasn't until a few days ago that I unrolled it and took a few pictures with it draped over me in the fading winter afternoon light:

Untitled, digital photograph, 2017

As per usual of late, I seem to be charting new territory again.  I have to set aside worries that I am fickle, as someone called me once, or that I am changing my mind with the tides.  Well heck, I am a Pisces after all.  And I did start a business with 7 women called Flow.  Ok fine.  There's a theme.  Now it's time to ebb for a while and see what comes to light.  

Topsail Beach, NC
Color film photograph

The German connection

me with my brother, Giles, Svea Gustavs on the far left,
 her cousin Katharina and brother Ture on the right
Sadisdorf, East Germany, 1983
Pinhole Camera Photo by Burghard Junghans


















There are many improbabilities in this life, those events that make your head spin in wonder and even awe, until you remember the miraculousness of being here at all, held down feet-first by gravity to this orbiting sphere in a corner of the universe.  One such event in my life was when I traveled from South Carolina to communist East Germany in 1983, (yep - 3 1/2 months before the simulated war game Able Archer between the US and Soviet Union).

War games were far from our minds - my family were there for the celebration of Martin Luther's 500th birthday, my father having been invited as a Protestant Church historian and Luther scholar.  So while he and my mother attended the Luther Congress in Erfurt, my brother and I went with the children and niece and nephew of his East German colleague to a tiny village called Sadisdorf, way up in the Ore Mountains close to the Czechoslovakian border.  Here we stayed for a week with the parents of this colleague's wife, six kids from the age of 9 to 16 or 17, essentially on holiday with the grandparents out in the country.  I had visited East Germany already once and met this family then, in 1979, at their home in Leipzig.  That was of course mind-blowing to my ten-year-old self, getting searched on the train by men with guns and experiencing first hand the sensory standouts of flat coca-cola, no deodorant or dish soap, scratchy toilet paper, cars with no mufflers, sonic booms and every exterior surface black with coal dust.

So I wasn't all newbie and naive this time around, but because I was in the countryside, it was a completely different experience.  True, there was another set of things to get used to: no indoor plumbing - well, there was a faucet in the kitchen that had running water, though I tried once that week to wash my hair and it took several hours as the water flow was so slow.  I got used to pooping in a hole in a bench in a room down the hall because the best toilet is, after all, the closest one.  And there was very little English spoken, since the kids were all schooled in Russian as a second language not English, like in West Germany, and no parents were around to translate.  My German was passable but even so, it took a fair amount of drawing, charading and atlas consultation for me to finally answer that no, there were no hippopotamuses in South Carolina.  Still, in contrast to my visit in 1979, this world felt like a haven, as long as we stayed within the bounds of the forest to pick our raspberries and mushrooms (not veering too close to the Czech border where guards were watching eerily), or stayed in the back yard to play duck duck goose and eat homemade Einback in the afternoon shade.  Three years later I would find myself in another haven of berries and mushrooms, in the Southern Appalachians, and realize in an odd, liminal way, that I had come home.

What does this all have to do with a textile blog?  About a month ago, I received in the mail the books below: the exhibition catalog for this year's Rijswijk Textile Biennial and a gorgeous volume on Jorinde Gustavs sent to me by Svea Gustavs, the girl in the picture above on the left.  Aside from being an artist herself, Svea now has her own publishing company in Amsterdam, designed the Rijswijk catalog for the now well- celebrated biennial, and edited and published the book on Jorinde Gustavs, her mother, who is a renowned German textile and installation artist.


Even though Svea and I stayed in touch over the years, I had no idea that her mother was a textile artist, nor that she was involved in risqué critique of the communist government through her work. Receiving these books takes me back to that time 34 years ago which feels so distant as to be unreal and then swings me right into my own textile-making present, linking the ends into a circle now discernible to me only after the passage of time.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Lexicon

Somehow, slowly but surely, day by sometimes frustrating day, I am developing a visual lexicon.

"Integument"
I have always kept a written journal and have discovered lately that when I go back a few years and reread entries, I can see a mysterious process underway.  I write down my thoughts, ideas, feelings, observations on any given day in an effort to move forward in my thinking, to both record and unburden my mind to make room for new thoughts (I am a consummate introvert - it can be hard to for me to clear my head otherwise).  But then far from remaining abandoned on the page, these thoughts and ideas seem to somehow sublimate into what I am producing in the studio, sometimes years later, as if they have a mind of their own and decide to reappear in another form unexpectedly and with little help from me.  It feels like a small miracle, like a gift being given back to me - "Here is what you were saying, n'est pas?"  "Oh!  Right!  That's it!"  It certainly seems to be a subconscious process over which I feel I am exerting no control.  I think that this must be what Agnes Martin was referring to in her essay "Uncontrollable Beauty":
"It is quite commonly thought that the intellect is responsible for everything that is made and done.  It is commonly thought that everything that is can be put into words.  But there is a wide range of emotional response that we make that cannot be put into words.  We are so used to making these emotional responses that we are not consciously aware of them until they are represented in artwork." 

"Punchhole"

So I keep writing, keep showing up in the studio, even though at times I am so resistant to being there I literally scream at the loom and throw things on the floor like I am doing this week with my current project.  In waiting for new yarn to start on another skin series, I decided to put a warp on the dobby loom and weave the Missouri Trouble overshot pattern, the only other coverlet pattern that has really ever called to me.  I think I have been fighting against thinking that I shouldn't be wasting my time weaving another coverlet pattern, that I should be moving forward with the skin series, that this is where the "real" work is.   But I lack faith in the mystery, for sure enough, after looking back though old journal entries, I found one from May 2015 that talked about weaving Missouri Trouble.  Trust the process Selinde.

Missouri Trouble coverlet courtesy of Pat Franklin

Meanwhile, I am thrilled to have two of my newest pieces, "Chrysalis" and "Corpuscle" accepted for the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild's Biennial Exhibit of Textile Arts "Sacred Environment".  They will be on view at the Art Station in Stone Mountain, GA from May 20-June 24.  I decided to get them framed in acrylic boxes along with "Coeur", below.  Very happy with the outcome, as they are enclosed from air and dust but not from light.   I was afraid they might feel arid inside a box, but instead they seem to come alive.   Solving this framing issue was a big accomplishment for me.  Moving forward....

"Coeur" in acrylic shadow box