Textile Center is giving me an award called the “Spun Gold”, which is a kind of a lifetime achievement award for contributions to the fiber art community and to the field. It is a an amazing honor and so very cool to be recognized and I feel more than a little weird about getting a lifetime achievement award when I haven’t yet reached 40, but I digress. What I really want to talk about is the photo. I designed this for the invitation for the award presentation. They wanted a photo of my work and I wanted something with a little personality. This photo itself is a piece of art.
First, the skirt is called “Strut” and it is digitally printed linen-cotton (printed by my dear friends at Spoonflower) and trimmed with vintage velvet ribbon and hand-stitched sequins. You only see a tiny bit of the ribbon in this shot, there are more stripes down the back. The pattern is just a classic pencil skirt. The peacock is a detail of a bobbin lace fan that is in the collection at the V&A museum in London. We photographed it when we were there a few years ago and I played with it in Photoshop and made this skirt. Here’s what the fan looks like. It is breathtaking in person. That little peacock is about 2 inches high.
Here’s also a detail of the skirt and the sequins.
I wanted to keep the focus of this photo on the skirt so that your eye was drawn right to that and not to my face because I wanted the “message” to be about my work and not about whatever dorky expression was on my face. I have no aspirations to be a model. So I started thinking about a way to make that change of focus happen. The obvious solution was to just crop my face out of the photo, which would certainly work but it seemed a little too obvious. But then I thought of this painting: The Son of Man by Rene Magritte.
You might recognize it as it has been featured in a bunch of movies and the like. It is supposed to be a self portrait of Magritte and he is said to have said the following about it (and a series of similar works that he did.)
It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.
I like this idea, that the “visible that is hidden” makes you fill in the blank about what you know about me and there is a little story going on in your mind. You will notice I have an apple in my portrait too.
My husband and very best and most favorite collaborator actually took the photo; I just “art directed”. The desk is a piece of plexiglass propped between two sawhorses. The computer is suspended from a steel cable (photoshopped out) because it bent the plexi too much and we wanted that high tech looking desk illusion. The glow around the computer was from a really big light behind me and I am standing on a big sheet of white paper which I tip-toed over to on a towel so I wouldn’t leave dirty footprints that we would have to Photoshop out. The computer was the actual machine that sat on my desk at work for many years until the fan died and it wheezed its last breath. But it is cool and I have kept it as a photo prop (although we gutted it so it was lighter). We would snap a few shots, he would show them to me on the screen on the back of the camera and I would step a 1/2 inch this way or that and move my shoulders up or down until we got it just right.