Sewing is in my blood. It not only inextricably links me to the women in my family tree, but it also connects me to people across cultures and the boundaries of time. The notion that virtually every human on earth has a relationship with fabric, be it utilitarian, expressive, ornamental, or sacred, gives me a profound sense of belonging and purpose. As I stitch and pull and knot, I am reminded that I am also stitching myself into a place within an immeasurable history.Combining traditional textile methods, such as embroidery, quilting, applique, and weaving, with a contemporary art practice, I am able to communicate in ways no other medium could provide.
My most current project delves into memory, whether true or only believed to be, and the fluidity of family histories as stories are told from one perspective to the next, and as gaps in the narrative are filled in over time. I recreate my own fragile recollections in quilt-like paintings on vintage projector screens using image transfers from photographs and video stills, hand embroidery, applique with fabric remnants and shapes, cutting and splicing, painting and drawing, all onto the screen itself. Through this process, I am able to piece together an origin story of my own.
This new series grew out of my recent focus which is an exploration of how children who are experiencing hardship or trauma express themselves when they may not have the vocabulary to do so. I began carefully transforming collected children’s drawings into embroidery on fabric at a time when several children in my life were facing very difficult circumstances, which flooded me with memories of my own, at times unstable, childhood and that feeling of voiceless-ness that comes with being a kid.
Embroidery is permanent, precious, and inherently tied to the household, symbolizing order and light-heartedness, like the “Home Sweet Home” piece on grandma’s wall. A child’s sketch is temporary, something often dismissed, perhaps stuck to the refrigerator, wrinkled and stained, then eventually forgotten. Childhood seems fleeting compared to a lifetime, but its impression remains. That Child of Always connects these things as a path to exploring the expression of children, some of whom face unbelievable hardship, while acknowledging the lasting effects of childhood.
Using funds from a grant awarded by the St Petersburg Arts Alliance, I produced an accompanying art book also titled, That Child of Always, which is currently for sale with proceeds benefitting the Guardian ad Litem Program of Florida.
In another ongoing series, I work intuitively to produce objects made of layers of paper and meticulous embroidery. Starting with several layers of thick paper, I tear holes into them as if peeling back a shroud or digging into dense earth. Then I satisfy the urge to mend the holes by stitching tight concentric lines around and around their perimeters. These stitches become steps in a journey, a way for my mind to travel. The last layer is filled in with a methodical pattern. Often it is a traditional embroidery pattern, while other times I find myself referencing patterns in nature, an urban landscape, or diagrams. The stitching is meditative in the way a repetitive act can be a vehicle for delving deeper into the mind. This process indulges my innate desire to turn inward and question everything. The works that evolve are like little portals inviting me to keep wondering and questioning, seeking out patterns and order within the uncertainty and mystery that comes with just being alive.
The Slaps project connects embroidery with street art. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s (and even today to some extent) it was popular practice for graffiti artists and taggers to write their tags on or draw on United States Postal Service shipping labels and then stick them right to a surface. In the street art world they are referred to as “slaps,” because you can literally slap your tag on the wall quickly and inconspicuously with very slim chances of getting caught. Graffiti is an art form dominated by men, while embroidery is a female-centric tradition. Slaps are a cheap and fast way to tag something, to vandalize, and end up wasting away over time, while embroidery is a painstakingly slow endeavor and is considered precious, valued, and permanent. In my series, I embroider slaps with pop culture words, phrases, texting shorthand, and drawings. I want to connect two seemingly disparate art forms and explore the similarities and differences among them.