Repurposing detritus into art
My studio practice relies upon the textile penchant to organize pliable planes and flexible lines into surfaces for functional, decorative or expressive ends. Though not exclusive to fiber, this constructive approach epitomizes the domestic hand processes that have long been associated with various disappearing and re-emerging crafts common in home production.
Though pieced, embroidered and crocheted items used to be the purview of grandmothers and self-declared crafters, the DIY movement has been reclaiming and reinterpreting the value of manual agency. Some have seen this as a response to our inhabiting an increasingly virtual world; others theorize a renewed interest in the making of one-of-a-kind objects in contradistinction to a culture that swims in the mass-manufactured. Still others have talked about the pleasure derived from the physical action of fabricating and from the challenge of solving problems that arise along the way.
Technical skills are part of this conversation. Fifty years ago, calling something “homemade” criticized an item for not simulating the sleekness or the finish of a commercial object; now some fetishize the mark of the hand while dismissing what looks machined. In emphasizing the irregularities of the handmade, proponents of “sloppy craft” promote the partial mastery of previously honored expertise as a venue for sociological and political commentary.
Into this contemporary art discourse, I bring an interest in the ordinary and overlooked, in the ways we assess material culture, and in our tendency to assign value. My materials are often drawn from what others would identify as detritus: odd bits of paper, leftovers from home maintenance projects, fish scales, faded flags, plastic bags. Believing that what we cast aside or send into landfills identifies our values and self-understandings, I use what could be easily discarded as commentary.
In my repurposing of what others might consider useless, I shy away from complex techniques and sophisticated equipment to employ processes that are typically shared person-to-person or accessed on-line. I trust my straightforward methods and familiar materials allow viewers to perceive the notion of time that runs through my work—as a commodity and a contemplative process. In a society in which few people admit having too much time, choosing labor-intensive processes can both record time’s passage (via crocheted loops, distinct woven lines and discrete staples), and invite an examination of the way we structure and comprehend our days.
These nonindustrial assembly methods might seem simply to consume time as they avoid questions of efficiency and minimizing production costs. Each work frankly demonstrates its fabrication and chronicles time. Simple, repetitious acts suggest a rhythm of gestures that enact durational division: the breaths of a day, the steps of a journey, the string of choices by which our lives take shape. The regular, accumulated activity of my studio practice both builds these objects and encodes whatever insight they might contain.
For more information visit www.jerrybleem.com.