Exploring the natural world via fiber art
Artists use process on a chosen medium to create work that reflects their individual perspective. My work is informed by a profound enjoyment in working by hand and a fundamental interest in science. The latter led to my former career as a research scientist. I designed scientific experiments, assembled by hand with parts often fabricated by hand, to explore and understand the natural world. I have utilized these experiences in my approach to creating art with fiber, chosen because of its inherently tactile and malleable nature.
I have nurtured my creative side with fiber-based materials for many years, first becoming an avid knitter in college, then later learning the processes involved in quilt making. Hand piecing and applique were meditative, not tedious, techniques to master. Since solid fabrics were not then popular, I began learning how to dye fabric, a process that I really enjoyed because it is in essence a chemistry experiment. I created my own designs, but soon realized that formal art training was expedient. So I enrolled in studio art classes and art history classes at my local community college in Portland, OR. I loved painting and other media, but I missed the tactile pleasures of working with fabric and building up materials and textures by hand. I finally decided to focus on fiber as my medium of choice.
The approach coalesced around experiments with different techniques and media. The use of distorted cheesecloth arose from a helioprint on cotton. This led to layering hand woven embroidery floss on fabric using gel medium to construct mixed media pieces. Around the same time, I tried embroidering silk organza to cotton with embroidery floss. These explorations brought me to my current process. I primarily use a foundation of cotton or silk fabric that has been hand-dyed, discharged, and/or printed. Depth is created with translucent layers of silk organza, threads, and cheesecloth manipulated to provide a distorted organic grid. These layers are bound to the foundation with hand stitching using embroidery floss.
While process informs what I do, my background in science informs why I do it. I am drawn to using a grid (the cheesecloth), to focusing in on details, and to working with the curvilinear nature of organic forms, in particular at the microscopic scale. My source of inspiration is the simplest single-celled organisms because these tiny, persistent creatures are deserving of humanity’s respect. Bacteria, the first life forms on Earth, have existed for 3.2+ billion years. They replicate quickly and modify their genetic code easily by incorporating foreign DNA from their surroundings. Humankind has evolved over just the past 2.5 million years in a world teeming with microbes, thus our lives are inextricably linked with theirs. Microorganisms can cause disease, but they also colonize our bodies and contribute to our health. They will likely continue to thrive long after we have disappeared. In the meantime, I will immerse myself in creating fiber-based work that is satisfying and meaningful to me.
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