I am a mixed media artist who primarily uses textiles in my work. Though contemporary in every sense, the work I do references traditional “women’s work,” slowly built up, mostly by hand, with a needle, using gentle materials – thread, floss, beads – in addition to more modern edgier ones such as Tyvek, metals and found objects. My work is detailed, often with reflective surfaces and tiny, rich elements, and does not always neatly fit typical categories but includes collage and heavily worked or embroidered surfaces as well as art quilts and weaving. I choose from myriad techniques, whatever works to express my vision.
My path to Art
Fiber has been a consistent thread through my life from a very early age. I grew up in quite a stark environment where edges were hard, geometric and the light was intense. I craved a soft, warm, welcoming place to snuggle, and hiding under the bed covers was my first stop on that journey. I was lucky to have a “maiden aunt” who lived in the back woods of Maine and in her wisdom she would occasionally send me packets of dye, skeins of embroidery floss and crazy fabric creatures she’d acquired at the annual sale at the local mental hospital. I was on my way!
As a teen I discovered theatre and ran for the costume shop. I got a degree in Costume Design from the University of Hawaii and spent a few years designing and building costumes for regional and college theatre, and Shakespeare festivals. Fun but a wild lifestyle where I was likely to work 18-hour days, find myself repairing a sewing machine at 3 am and then job hunting when the show opened. So back to school to train for more stable work and a 35-year career as a linguist.
But . . . I never stopped sewing, taking workshops and showing my work occasionally. I also visited a LOT of museums. I didn’t go to art school but was drawn to explore on my own often with friends who had had formal art education. This was my substitute for an art degree. Upon retirement in 2006 I was off and running once again on that textile journey!
I am an unapologetic Abstract Expressionist Mixed Media Textile Artist. I am crazy for the work of Anselm Keifer, Kazuo Shiraga, Mark Bradford among MANY others of their ilk. I have a powerful, visceral response to their work. They work BIG and MASCULINE. They also don’t stitch. I am first and foremost a stitcher, a hand stitcher. So, while I am impacted by the Big Boys, my work is much smaller.
The work is large and bold enough to be read from across a gallery, but it is my goal for that viewer to be intrigued enough to walk right up and examine those micro details from my almost invisible stitching to tiny elements whether fiber or found object.
People often ask how I get my ideas. It’s not hard at all: I just look around. I work almost exclusively in series so once I decide upon a theme I can work for a year or more developing several pieces with which to deeply dive into it. I adore materials and processes but I only employ them in service to the given theme.
These works are my contribution to Confluence (see http://behance.net/fiberfly), a traveling exhibit on the beauty, abuse and scarcity of water. There are art quilts and highly textured mixed media pieces in the series. Some are framed and others hang as textiles/quilts from an invisible rod.
The 40,000-15,000 year-old cave paintings of northern Spain, southern France and Australia are the subject of one such series. Pomegranates, which represent fecundity and come in the most amazing colors, create an additional series. Work examining industrial detritus and the Pacific Gyre are comprised of rusty metal, bits of plastics and random “junk” which sparkle and seduce make up yet another. Language, including early human mark-making, is an ever-present theme in my work.
The objective of my artwork is to awaken the mind of the viewer by means of visual seduction.
My series Fierce Winds explores the excitement and terror of searing winds which have been exacerbated by sudden climate change. Most of the works are art quilts with dyed, printed, painted and otherwise manipulated surfaces. Some contain plastics and there is lots of hand stitching. Each is named for a different wind which howls across the globe.
And Confluence, a show I curated with the work of five artists and sent to six venues in the US, considers aspects of water: its beauty, scarcity and impact.
Chroma, an exploration of almost every possible aspect of color, is comprised of eight 50” x 80” mixed media panels on stretcher bars and permanently hangs at the headquarters of School on Wheels in Los Angeles.
I have recently completed a 3-part series called Incarceration. It investigates issues of imprisonment and is based in part on a visit I took to Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco, and the work of Arturo Burri, a WWII POW who spent three years in a prison camp in Hereford, TX. His experience there lead to his artistic development.
There are 9 quilts, 17 “cells” on stretcher bars, and a dozen 6” square embroideries called The Keys.
One of the things I’ve learned since being a full-time studio artist is that it is very important to me to show my work. So far, I have done so on six continents (those darn penguins in Antarctica seem to take no interest in art of any stripe!). To make this happen I submit to juried shows, am a member of several international textile organizations, and I also have been curating shows of my own work and often the artwork of other textile artists whose work I admire. A new collaboration which deals with positivity in times of political turmoil is in the works in 2019 and presently has the working title Bent Needle Collective.
As for advice to the up and coming – simple: educate yourself, follow your passion and work – at least 8 hours every day. Your journey may spring from love, but being an artist is a serious endeavor.