Vision, Uncertainty and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists much acknowledge and learn from: vision is always ahead of excecution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue ~David Bales & Ted Orland, Art & Fear
About this time last year, I was invited to attend Arrowmont’s 2nd Annual Pentaculum as part of the Textiles Studio. Spending a blissful week in the Smoky Mountains creating with like-minded individuals was something I was definitely not going to pass up…So without even thinking, I accepted the invitation. As the week neared after the busy holidays, my mind raced about what to pack-what was I going to work on, what can one complete in only a week? I nearly packed my entire studio for a month long residency at Jentel Artist Residency, so I decided that I was limiting myself to only a small suitcase of studio materials. As part of the Pentaculum, Arrowmont generously allows participants to use any equipment housed within their respective studio so I only needed to think about my supplies. I didn’t pack any encaustic because it is what I do in my home studio, it needs special equipment/ventilation, plus I wanted to work on other things. I ended up packing tons of found papers and fabrics I had been saving, paints, brushes, paper, hand and machine stitching materials, canvas, rust printed and drop cloth scraps and 3 books. Thinking that the lightening rod of inspiration would strike me as I entered the Arrowmont studio, I had only an inkling about what I was going to work on so I just sat down and started painting.
If you follow me on facebook or instagram, you have seen my drawings/paintings on Mylar. The skin-like translucency of Mylar references the body and this is why I am so attracted to it. Linking the earth and the body through visual patterns and similarities is the crux of my work, so I am attracted to materials that reference either. The work on Mylar is an ongoing experimental series I that began in grad school and have since translated into stitch, encaustic and mixed media collages. This language of squiggles and looping gestures is part of my signature group of marks and is derived from embroidery, hair, loose threads, maps and landscape. I have returned to this series again and again for inspiration and making these drawings something more than just inspiration is one of my New Year Studio Resolutions (stay tuned for a blog post about this), so this is what I focused on at the Pentaculum.
Because I was part of the Textiles Studio, I was inspired to apply hand stitching to these paintings-this was something I had always wanted to do, but never had the time. I also began deconstructing a muslin fabric that I had brought-this fabric covered the springs of an old piece of upholstery I trash picked years ago. The fabric has been in my studio forever and has aways inspired me with it’s interesting sewn structure, rust marks, holes and history. It took a few hours to deconstruct it and through the repetitive process of ripping out stitches, I got to ‘know’ the fabric’s structure and function. I can’t begin any art piece with a blank slate, I always need a mark on the surface that I can use as a place to respond. In this case, the deconstructed fabric happened to be laying on my Mylar so I used it. I began with pencil tracing the holes, the loose threads and in some cases drawing the threads within the weave structure. Just the pencil tracings alone were simple and beautiful, referencing and becoming a map for my response in paint and stitch. Being limited in my supplies, I worked within a palette of white, black and red paint along with white and black thread. At the end of the week, I was amazed to discover that I had completed ten of these drawings. I would consider none of them ‘finished’, but they are a step in my process that I had always wanted to take. I am so thankful for having been given the time to take this step at Arrowmont. The result of combining the hand stitching with the paintings was more successful than I had imagined and has moved me forward in my creative walk.
Being in the studio was awesome but just part of the Pentaculum experience. There were so many other amazing moments during the week that would take too many words to describe…I took a day to hike in the Smoky Mountains National Park, read extensively in the amazing Arrowmont library, photographed, socialized, ate great food, did yoga and patronized the largest scrapbooking store I have ever seen. All in all, the Pentaculum was exactly what I needed to start off the new year!