Writing an artist statement is hard. Exhibition venues, grant and show applications ask for one and it is a real balance to writing something that explains what you do and why and doesn’t sound cheesy (or snobbish). I realized that the artist statement that I wrote a couple of years ago was really not talking about WHAT I do very well, but was all about the WHY. But WHAT I do is actually more of the part that needs the explanation. Everyone kind of gets what it means to be a painter or a photographer, but when I say that I am a digital fabric designer, people often look a little puzzled. So I re-wrote.
I spend a lot of time thinking about pixels.
Pixels are the tiny units that make up a digital image. I use them directly in all of my surface designs, in transforming my original art work into a digital format so that it can be printed onto fabric. The word pixel comes from a combination of “picture” or “pix” and “element”. Although it wasn’t a yet a word in the time of Monet or Seurat, the Impressionist painters were creating art the same way, by building their designs from layers of tiny elements or dots of color. My dots are virtual. Instead of painting, I am creating and manipulating computer code and making it into something practical and touchable.
Like a painter, I also start with a blank canvas. Every piece begins with creating the design for the fabric itself. I don’t just sew clothing; I create art from blank fabric. I build up layers of color and texture to create engineered prints that fit the shape of the garment I want to make. For these surface designs, I work with materials that are unexpected. I look for textures in nature, like the veins in marble or bubbles in ice. I take photographs of shadows, cracks, peeling paint, and asphalt. I create cut paper illustrations from recycled magazines, sheet music, and the patterned envelopes from bank statements. Each design has a story and element that inspired it. I think about the placement of elements and how the two dimensional surface will translate to a three-dimensional shape. My designs are printed onto fabrics, which I then use to construct wearable art pieces. In contrast to this high-tech technique, I choose classic, timeless silhouettes and shapes for the garments that I make, instead of more avant-garde designs. These quintessential forms not only showcase the surface pattern, but evoke a sense of familiarity and nostalgia, helping to create a connection with the viewer.
I also think I need to make a short video that shows the whole process from that blank paper to finished garment. So that is on my agenda, too.