Abstract Fiber: line / pattern / structure / disorder

August 19, 2008

In this post I will give you a broad overview of how my work has evolved. I begin with what my work is about and then show you examples of representative pieces.

I make large-scale tufted wool wall pieces and, on a more intimate scale, pieced organdy constructions sewn onto acrylic. My approach is intuitive and spontaneous producing compositions with the gestural line of drawings and the measure and control of geometry. Yet the pieces remain true to the special qualities of the materials.

In my work, I offer a structure that is formal and spare, stressing silhouette, shape, surface, and line. I translate felt tensions into visual tensions. I feel a strong drive for order and yet I immediately rebel against it, embracing disorder-which one can also call spontaneity, lyricism, freedom. Lines begin and disappear; patterns swirl and dissolve; an ordered structure is often subverted by the movement of the fluid background. I see these tensions as a reflection of a central conflict in real life. What life feels like is the narrative my work relates in abstract compositions. Neither order nor chaos wins; the fun lies in the completely natural encounter between the two.

I completed this piece right out of graduate school.  (It is now in the collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.)

Chromatic Fugue ©1986

Chromatic Fugue ©1986

My approach then was more painterly than what I do now. Current work is more linear and monochromatic as in Blue Matter, a recent commission (Wachovia Bank headquarters, Charlotte, NC):

Blue Matter ©2008

Blue Matter ©2008

In the monochromatic tufted pieces, you still do get zapped with an area of intense color which holds its own against the swirl of hatched patterning. And not just any color…but yellow! which I recall being told had to be used sparingly. It’s interesting that in the order/ disorder struggle, in these pieces fluid, energetic lines are actually stripes of alternating white and deep blue. You can’t get more orderly and controlled than by the repetition of parallel lines which become patterned channels of energy.

I’d never thought in terms of having a painterly or linear approach. I picked up on this difference among artists from reading some time ago that Picasso had a gift for line. Since then I’ve taken notice that other artists lean more in one direction than in the other (duh!). I love line. My emphasis on line comes at the expense of color for I pared it way down to monochromatic, especially in my stitched organdy constructions. Perhaps this leap from tufting on a large scale to piecing relatively small pieces came about as color dropped away and line ascended. Line plays a different role in the pieced work. It’s more architectural, as artspeak would put it.

Since 2003, I’ve needed a more portable process for making art for our lives now involved more travel which meant being away from my studio (though I continue to make large tufted pieces). I began working on a more intimate scale piecing white cotton organdy and sewing it onto black plexiglass . My love of line comes through in the stitched and folded seams which become structural, like scaffolding. The contrasting translucency of the adjacent shapes reveals the lines. The layering of shapes provides more opacity and more rhythmic contrasts. This work has evolved from an initial series of buttons + machine top-stitched organdy compositions, to pieced and layered formal constructs, to the more recent exploding silhouettes. Their intimate size and monochromatic palette of whites makes for quiet, meditative works–like whispers.

Construction #13 ©2003

Construction #13 ©2003

In my next post, I will write about how I, a late bloomer, got started making art.

I welcome comments

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