Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Layering Process

Today's studio efforts enriched this piece, which first appeared in a previous blog post. When I first applied the dyes over the dried paste resist, the color ranges appeared quite different from the finished piece above. Note the subtle gray greens and tans below.Imagine my surprise after steaming this piece to go from these earth tones to soft blues! The reason for this is the age of the mixed dyes and the fact that I remembered (too late!) dumping a tiny bit of blue into the one dye paste mix thinking it was black (no glasses on!) Evidently the blue, being the freshest dye, bonded to the fibers; the rest washed away.The color beneath the resist patterns reappeared after it got rinsed out along with the new layer of dye. Luckily, I find the blue very appealing. There is a painterly quality to the piece at this stage that is most satisfying. It already has a lot of visual interest and complexity; what it needs now is to develop the composition.There are so many interesting detail areas on the surface of this piece and it could easily be divided and completed as a series of small framed works. However, for the time being I'll work on it as a whole composition and continue the layering process, preserving some of the blue with wax resist and possibly cut paper resists and working several shades of darker color over those. So far, this piece is shaping up to be both textural and engaging.

At home I'm cutting out new letterforms and contemplating another new idea, which is to create a loose grid on a white ground and compose flowing patterns of letterforms across this surface in shades and colors and sizes that will appear to recede and advance. Here is a very rough beginning -- throwing pieces up on the design wall is one of my forms of "sketching" and I have lots of leftover letterforms to play with and move around from the Pages piece I just finished. Even this rough beginning suggests possibilities and I'll return to my studio next to make more of this type of cloth for the ground fabric, which strongly appeals to me, but in the dimensions that fit my series, roughly 42" x 48" or 48" x 48."

An artist friend who is a painter visited my studio and commented that she is amazed at the amount of work that goes into my pieces. Although I enjoy painting with acrylics on canvas, there is something about layering and printing with dyes and paints on a textile surface that resonates with me aesthetically. Perhaps it is because cloth is so malleable, so adaptable to a multitude of processes. It can be sculpted, painted, draped, worn, hung on a wall, cast in bronze, burned, buried, stitched, wrapped, stretched and framed, among other options.

Choice of a medium is a question of artistic fit. Did Kara Walker set out to work with cut paper silhouettes? Or did the choice of materials evolve in service to her concept? In contemporary art, various materials have been appropriated from every source and are being used by artists. Every type of material imaginable can and is being altered, combined or constructed into simple or elaborate works. Artists translate ideas into form; their choice of materials and mediums are no longer limited to drawing, painting and sculpture, although many contemporary artists still work in those mediums. It truly is a new frontier for cultural definitions about what is art.

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