I always romanticized the life of a painter and spent roughly ten years working in oils and acrylics. At the same time, I began working as an actress, taking roles ranging from c commercials to the first Avengers movie. In cinema, as in painting, light and shadow play a crucial role. This play of light would come to play a crucial role in my work in the future. I felt unsatisfied as a painter but my university had few opportunities outside of the classical art forms for me to explore. Then my Aunt Carol suggested I try quilting. She sewed throughout her life and made some extraordinary pieces. But she regarded her work as a craft, not fine art, even though she aspired to cross that gap. Her passion was infectious and I was inspired by her ambition. After a few basic sewing lessons, she set me free to create and find my own voice. I explored the fine line between craft and art. Did working with traditional crafting materials automatically define my work as a craft? Did fine art have more to do with how I used the materials versus the materials themselves? Could a simple change of composition, or use of an unexpected stitch suddenly transform craft into art? When I became stuck or confused, as happened often early on, I called or texted my aunt for guidance. She sent me sewing ideas and works by other inventive sewers who inspired her such as X.
The portrait occurred to me after looking through one of Aunt Carol’s quilting magazines. In it, I learned of a process that involved printing your own fabric. It required a practiced hand and was beyond my abilities at the time. But the concept spoke to me. I followed the same beginnings, finding a portrait that I took of my husband, and tried a simplistic version of the process. I immediately loved the process of simplifying, deconstructing, and reassembling all of the faces I knew so well. Many interesting and beautiful shapes combine to create the human face. Some faces have geometric corners and irregular angles, others are all round edges and soft curves. The addition of dramatic light simultaneously hides the face and pulls specific features out of the shadows demanding that the viewer takes notice. Just as Film Noir directors cloak a scene in shadow to narrow the viewer’s focus on a single detail, such as the fleeting spark of light emitted from a struck match, my portraits narrow the viewer’s focus to important details which make each figure unique, such as a crooked smile, or laughing eyes.
The most fascinating portion of this process comes when I take the various layers of cutout shapes and reassemble them to recreate the person. I break the face down into the simplest shapes possible while still retaining the reality of the person. Assembled incorrectly or overly simplified and the familiar is gone. The sitter is rendered unrecognizable, reduced to an abstract form. However, my process requires that I revisit the same image several times in several different formats. I become so accustomed to the individual that by the time I reach the point of reassembling, I can layer, and adjust until I see that spark of the individual shining through the collection of oddly shaped fabric scraps.
The fabric itself delivers many options for texture and color intensity, even within the confines of black, white, and gray. My choice of thick opaque fabrics or thin transparent ones allows me to control the interaction of overlapping clothes or wispy strands of hair dancing across the brow.
The final step, when the stitch replaces the line, provided a new language with which to communicate the details of each face. The variety in the density, consistency and range of stitch creates a wondrously new opportunity for depth and texture. No longer confined to a straight line, I could now enhance my beautiful shapes with thickly textured energetic lines, or flowing silky lines, depending on the energy I wanted to communicate through the image.
In my current body of work, I chose to focus exclusively on “Selfies”. These images catch a fleeting moment in time. Yet the act of photographing this moment transforms it into something long lasting. Traditionally, the historical or heirloom quality of quilts emphasizes longevity. They are expected to be passed down for many generations. My work takes the heirloom quilting materials, combines them with the modern photographic selfie and emphasizes the contrast of the two notions. Can something be both fleeting and eternal? I invite you to view my work and find your own answer to that question.