“...threadbare...,” 2009 16" x 20"
Hand woven tapestry, wool, silk, linen, cotton, copper yarns, hand stitching
“...hanging by a thread...,” 2008 16" x 20"
Hand woven tapestry, hand stitching, wool, linen, rayon, cotton, copper yarns
”...frayed...," 2010 16" x 20"
Hand woven tapestry, hand stitching, wool, linen, silk, copper, found domestic cloth, stretched Belgian linen
“...ties that bind...,” 2010 16" x 20"
Hand woven tapestry, wool, linen, cotton, silk, copper, found domestic cloth, stretched Belgian linen
“...Misheard Wisdom...,” 2011 10" x 10"
Hand woven tapestry, wool, linen, silk, cotton, acrylic paint, stretched Belgian linen backing
“...unpicked stitches...," 2011 16" x 20"
Hand woven tapestry, wool, linen, copper, cotton, rayon, silk, found domestic cloth
Deeply underscoring the creation of all my work is the committed investiture of the hours of my life. When a viewer stands and looks at my work, created by hand weaving tapestry, by painstakingly hand stitching, by laying down layers of fine graphite lines, there is an awareness of my bodily interaction with the work and the tangible evidence of a portion of my life. The quiet voice, the use of beauty, are intentional. I do not use machinery, except for a tapestry loom, a needle, scissors – simple tools steeped in history and globally available. While immersed in my recurrent themes of life’s cycles – birth, fecundity/sterility and death, humanity’s apparent inability to comprehend mortality, our sense of preciousness – I often feel a strong connection to what it truly means to be human, to be mortal, to be an integrated component of the natural world.
My world is defined visually. The existence of unseen objects is often forgotten while I linger in amazement, examining the colour and patterns in a shell. Thoughts and ideas swirl in an internal mist of colour and texture, with stronger themes surfacing and connecting with one another. Somehow, out of those mists, emerges a clear driving need to communicate with others, to express my swirling, connected thoughts, and imagery will begin to form. Eclectic research quietly evolves into a symbolic language. The medium is chosen with care, and is a component of the narrative I convey to the viewer. Just as body language and tone of voice add nuances to verbal statements, so, every decision in creating a visual art work becomes part of the completed whole.
Throughout my life I’ve been intrigued by natural history, fascinated by the similarities and diversity presented by human culture and equally intrigued by both scientific and historical discoveries. During my creative process, I have engaged with those who operate on the edges of the expected cycles of nature: infertile women and those in the scientific community who are seeking immortality. Both groups are truly examining the reality of our limited life span and are aware of the cosmic ticking of clocks. Our society is built on the understanding of generational cycles and finite life spans but we cling to our illusions of preserved youth. We flirt with death but have great difficulty accepting its universality. Instead, we strive, frantically searching for ways to work faster, do more and, in doing so, we squander the peace accompanying the simple, quiet and slow. There is a connectedness to the rhythms of life made manifest by the slow, repetitive action of making marks by hand. In our current culture, that connection is often lost to us. For the viewer, the action of contemplating my work, might allow a glimpse of the possibility for silence, in a world of cacophony. Beyond the declared subject matter, it’s that connection I hope for.
My willingness to expend such a limited resource in the creation of a small textile, to mark the slow transformation from decay to preserved beauty, to slowly evolve a tiny pencil drawing, is often met with awed confusion. This is especially the case with the buried work. To many, the creation of a handwoven tapestry, a treasured object, knowing it will be intentionally exposed to the destructive, transformative processes of earth burial, seems …. just plain crazy. To me, it’s reflective of nature itself, in which we create and nurture new life knowing death will inevitably occur.
By creating my work in media often considered to have quieter voices in the art world: textiles and small, graphite drawings on paper, I am able to convey my points of view non-confrontationally. I want to engage viewers and tweak their interest, to make them wonder what my pieces are all about, to allow them make up their own stories. I don’t need to have the audience agree with me – I just want to make them think about what I might be saying. Visually.
September 17, 2011
Nanoose Bay, British Columbia
Return to: Dorothy Clews Curator’s Essay