Tarin Fuller, former gallery owner, collector and friend. Is the daughter of Norman Lewis, who was an important twentieth century Abstract-Expressionist. She is also someone whose opinion I value. ...We gathered this past summer for my weekly papermaking open studios, when suddenly… the heavens opened and poured a heavy rain for more than an hour. Before we knew what happened water was pouring into my basement level studio from windows and the door… Naturally we stopped working, and several of us scrambled to clean up the mess.
In the end, after everyone else had gone and things were quiet, Tarin and I sat in my upstairs sitting room where “Fan Dance” (my other blog's masthead) hangs, to talk about my work as an artist. In the midst of some very insightful suggestions, she challenged me to explain the WHY? of my work: Why vintage/antique lace, why the fascination with embroidery hand work, what is my connection to the Victorian era, to slavery, to history…? And WHY, pray tell, does everything hinge on PAPER!?
The paper part is easy... It belongs to my soul. From a child I have collected it. Admired it. Bought commerical products just to own a special piece of it. ...In my mid twenties, I moved into an appartment where a child's paper quilt had been left. Sixteen squares of all white paper with simple shapes cut into the center of each one, and white paper behind to give depth. All taped together with a paper cut fringe on the bottom it was hanging on the wall when I moved in. Was it left for ME? Or just a forgotten treasure? Which ever the case I kept that light airy quilt on my walls through several homes and two states until it literally disinergrated. It was only natural that I should eventually discover papermaking. In 2000 it became my spiritual solice as I struggled in a new life as a married woman.
Thinking about the rest of her questions for a few days… My short answer is I am fascinated by things made by hand, their perfection, imperfection, or no attempt at perfection, I am comforted by that approachability. Designs that carry with them a sense of fun movement and celebration… Made well because that’ how things WERE done.
Even when I draw or paint I seem to swirl. I’m told my work sings… and that I also sing when I talk. Others say I write in poetic prose… So it is the movement then of handwork that attracts me. Intricate. Delicate. Lively. Created over many quiet reflective moments. There is a spiritual component to the celebration. I find this all uplifting. It breathes hope. Yes for me antique lace and vintage handwork does all that… Like Victorian Era exactness and detailed sensibilities, it speaks of constancy, a place where human dignity seems to linger less and less as society becomes more complex. ...Then there is history. My fascination with the need to know, to tell, to gather objects and stories from lives, or whole communities, is also my need to embrace appreciate understand what has been, because it provides some root for what is, and perhaps, for what is to come… And, since slavery is near the root of me – though certainly NOT the root – just close enough to the base to need shoring up. I dive there often for myself, for my ancestors, until the day that I know is coming, finally arrives. The day, when I make piece with the past, that I may lunge fully into the now, copiously into the celebrations of the PRESENT, the place where God lives in me…
This, I think, is what my mixed media art is about... for now at least.