About

Contents

1. About my Art

2. Artist Statement

3. Themes

4. Techniques and Materials

5. Conversing With the Light

6. Memory as Light in the Landscape

7. Curriculum Vitae

Georges Braque:
·    “I have always had (a hankering) to touch things as well as to see them”

·    ”If there is no mystery there is no poetry”

Odilon Redon:
·    “The artist yields often to the stimuli of materials that will transmit his spirit.”

About my art

I make art textiles and artist books on botanical themes. Working with nature is one of my life’s constants and consolations. My printed and stitched textiles and papers, like scrolls, become botanical records of plants and their environments in every season.

My basic method is to print and stitch on textiles and papers, building up layers of marks on the surfaces to express meaning with line, colour and texture. 

 As well as painting substrates with acrylics, I apply pigments directly from plants onto natural fibers with eco printing (i.e., contact dyeing) processes. Printing and dyeing with plants from my garden and the local environment have become a special interest.

Statement

My imagination is always drawn to what lies beneath surfaces. By exploiting the layering possibilities of paint, digital prints, fibres and stitched threads, I try to express what may be possible to see with inner eyes. Some of my work (e.g, In The Drowned Lands series and the Green Mysteries series) concerns what might lie hidden in familiar landscapes like the waters and terrain of the Rideau Canal.

Other work, also nature-focused, looks close-up at seeds and cell structures and refers to the beauty in decontextualized forms and colour arrangements. The fact that we can be attracted to abstract, non-representational patterns and arrangements of colour is intriguing to me. Digital photography, high powered telescopes and the electron scanning microscope are opening artists to worlds of beauty formerly invisible to the physical eye; they help me make connections between art, science and technology. 

The abstract art-like patternings in cell structures under a microscope prompts me to speculate that humanity might have another kind of vision, a kind of "Deja Vu",  that allows us to recognize as familiar the cells that living matter is made of. Perhaps this special way of seeing, less mysterious thanks to science, is one of the sources of our appreciation of art, especially abstract art.  Art, like science, uncovers what is hidden.

Textile artists have always sought to convey the special nature of their attraction to patterns and tactile mediums. The unique expressive possibilities of fibre and textile invite me to create textured abstract works with a new dimensionality not possible with painting materials alone.

Themes

My works contain expressions of both personal and universal symbols that are described here for the sake of interested viewers; for those unconcerned with analysis of the artist's inner life, I invite you to enjoy the works on their own terms.

My art is inspired by landscapes both grand and intimate. I am  touched by the heritage landscapes of the Rideau Canal corridor; by remembrance of long-dead canal builders; by garden plants, seed collecting and seed growing; and by my responses to music. I find all these themes interconnect as sources for my art. 

I live and garden beside the Rideau Canal in Ottawa and love its beauty in every season. When the canal is drained for the skating season, I collect canal stone rubble to build walls, paths and sculptures in my garden. In this way, I feel I can somehow touch the lives of the canal’s long-passed builders. I am alert to intimations in the stones that might tell about the builders’ work, struggles and dreams.  I have grieved for their deaths from malaria or industrial accidents, far from home, as well as for the ingratitude of officialdom towards their efforts. I am grateful that the landscape we have inherited from their hands brings us peace and beauty and that the canal they built has never been used in war as originally purposed. The canal landscape’s layered beauty and human connections holds lasting inspiration for my art. 

Many of the plants in my canal-side garden are grown from seeds I have collected myself or that were shared by other gardeners. I support seed saving projects whose aims are to preserve seed (thus grower autonomy) for the benefit of future generations all over the world. I deplore agricidal practices such as the development and use of “terminator” seeds. Ideas about seed abundance and the beauty of plant life from cell to seed to bloom to compost easily find their way into my work. With the help of my camera I can look very closely at the plants and creatures in my garden and use the images as inspiration for my work.

While I work in my studio, I listen to music, often Mozart and Bach. Sometimes the music distracts me from the current work because I begin to see the music as colours and forms and I feel compelled to stop and stitch and paint it.

Textile art traditionally concerns itself with patterning or markings and I have placed myself inside this tradition with many of my works. Appreciation for the beauties of patterns in nature is a deeply human experience motivated not only by attraction to visual beauty but by cognitive processes that enable us to recognize  and engage in patterning activities like using language , making music, writing computer code, etc.  The marks on the coat of a bean or the skin of a toad, the rings and bark of a tree, cell patterns seen under a microscope, all constantly bring new life to my artist’s vision.

The mysteries of life at the cell level, invisible to the naked eye, intrigue me as a fibre artist. Patterns in nature can carry more than just surface meaning and attraction.  Several of my series consider both the Beauty and the Beast of cell life. The mediums  of textile and print offer opportunities for layering colour, form and texture in exciting ways to express feelings and ideas about my themes.

Techniques and Materials

I use many different art processes in my pieces and incorporate many kinds of fibres and textiles from my collection, including paper, metals, plastics and vinyl;  in fact, any material may become “textile” by the use I make of it. Free machine embroidery is a characteristic component of my work as is printing and painting. I use dyes, paints and inks in combination with various fabrics and threads to create highly textured and coloured surfaces. I use my digital camera to photograph nature in every season. I photoshop the results to create compositions inspiring to my work.

Currently I enjoy making marks with rust printing on old linen damask. Working with pigments that are in and of the earth and incorporating them into my art is a recent interest. I extract natural dyes from plants, soils and minerals by various non-toxic processes, inducing them to mark textile and paper substrates. I find this process, generally referred to as “eco printing”, a fascinating artistic adventure. I document my experiments with natural dye prints on my blog “Threadborne.”

Conversing with the Light

Colour and light are always in dialogue on my textile surfaces, intimately collaborating to create inviting tactile forms that invite both eye and hand to reach out and connect beyond the superficial. For me, the stitching in textile art alludes to the marks we make on earth in order to shape and record life; or it can suggest marks made on us, over which we have no control, and which have shaped us for better or worse. Light in a spiritual sense makes its own marks too, for it leaves traces on us that we struggle both to allow in and to keep out. That light can change how we view those other marks and possibly the scars or fractures they leave; and these impressions find their way into the work. As Leonard Cohen says, a crack is where the light gets in… The play of light across a textile work is a mystery which never reveals itself all at once but rewards a persistent search, a sustained conversation. The light can even be the main subject of a work sometimes, for as the light moves and changes throughout the day, new colours and forms are traced on its surface, and you notice how the shaped surface of a textile speaks differently according to the play of light. Each kind of textile surface has its own conversation with the light.

Memory as Light in the Landscape

In my work I try to connect the fugitive nature of fibre with memory’s ephemeral character. The perception of changing light on a layered textile surface is akin to the shifting action of memory: stories partly recalled, recreated, different layers of understanding uncovered or concealed each time memory is conjured; new dialogues that stitch together the former and the current to make the new, to remake and reform the old.
My impressionistic stitched canvases refer to personal stories retold or uncovered; journeys retraced; landscapes revisited; snatches of sound recalled as shapes and colours. I stitch dimensional, layered and tactile surfaces on fibre using the technique of free machine embroidery. Layered lines of thread, fragments of fibre, digital prints and skin-like layers of dye, ink or paint are intricately built up until I feel the fabric is complete and a new textile conveying its unique history has emerged.

My focus is also on the physical, psychological and spiritual connections I enjoy with my materials and which figure prominently in my artistic expression. I find making marks with stitch an enticing activity akin to the literate and physical delights of writing or painting. Cutting back layers of fibre, arranging them together or attaching them with stitching allows me the deep pleasure of making community of disparate fragments, thus referencing a creative womanly role. The complex layering possibilities in fabrics offer enduring metaphors through which I can reveal or conceal feelings and ideas about both transience and treasured memory.