Using both printmaking and embroidery in his work, artist Max Colby explores themes of death and transformation in his series Role Play. He first prints on handmade paper, creating a collograph. This type of printmaking applies materials to a rigid board. Things with a lot of texture like sandpaper, leaves, cardboard are inked and printed. Colby has controlled the shape of the print, manipulating it in a very deliberate way. Once printing is done, he then adorns it with hand-sewn embroidery.
In a short statement about his work, Colby refers to his the imagery in his work as “figures,” which I take to mean as beings. Not necessarily human, but some other living force. Their “body” is made out from printing, while the embroidery acts as embellishment for the figure. Colby writes that Role Play features “sculptural ‘skins’ which showcase fragility and temporality in conjunction with highly embellished and extravagant applications using notions of death and transformation as a catalyst.” I imagine that these could be armor or headdresses, with pieces that have spikes sewn-in or tactile objects like beads and buttons.
There is a stark difference between the delicate collograph printing and the visually-heavy embroidery. At times, it engulfs the figures, which I think is the point. Garments last a lot longer than we do. Items are passed down from generation to generation, and evidence of what a jacket looked like will be surpass our lifetime.
Amanda McCavour creates delicate and intricate thread illustration-sculptures by sewing into a fabric that dissolves in water. This method allows her to build a threaded structure that stays in place once the fabric dissolves. The result is embroidery that appears fragile, on the verge of unraveling. She recreates domestic scenery, like that of chairs, side tables, electric sockets, in addition to other figures such as hands, a garden, and a steam pump. The effect of this work is ephemeral and whimsical.
From her artist statement, “I am interested in the vulnerability of thread, its ability to unravel, and its strength when it is sewn together. I am interested in the connections between process and materials and the way that they relate to images and spaces. Tracing actions and environments through a process of repetition, translation and dissolving, I hope to trace absence. My work is a process of making as a way of tracing and preserving things that are gone, or slowly falling apart.” (via slow art day)
Louise Riley embroiders human figures using a mattress as a canvas. Usually in repose, these figures create an intimate experience for the viewer. Riley’s work demonstrates a fine attention to detail and color shading, rendering vulnerable and realistic characters out of linear and geometric forms. Part of her practice includes that of altering the flat shape of the mattress, creating rolls and curves in her mattress-canvas, or cutting shapes into or on the mattress.
From her artist statement, “When I am sewing figures, I think of the thread being strands of DNA and the stitches binary codes and the fabric (our second skin anyway) a grid and that leads me onto String theory, experiences happening alongside each other with endless alternative outcomes. These grandiose thoughts are what get me through the hours..
The literal abundance of fabric and thread as domestic content and construction, not limited to gender, makes our relationship to it very intimate.
I use the mattress as a backgroundless background that holds weight of experience conceptually, spiritually and physically. Blood, sweat and tears like tree rings in its core. Its presence in our rights of passage, our sleep, rest, thoughts, dreams, the theatre of life spilled out onto it. How could I work on anything else! It is a ready-made canvas, it allows my ideas to penetrate it and collaborate with it to unearth a supposed breath-taking, yet ordinary, history or herstory.”
Jose Romussi creates colorful and elegant embroidery art by stitching thread into old photographs and magazine pages. Embroidering bright colors onto sepia-toned or black and white photography, Romussi designs a sharp contrast that is thoughtful and beautiful. His subjects are often women, the fashion advertisements and models ornamented with floral and other round patterns, the dancers with straighter lines reflecting the strength and precision of form of ballet. For the dancers and ballerinas, Romussi’s embroidered accents highlight movements and bodily forms of the figures. A photograph is of course an inadequate substitute for any live performance, but Romussi’s neatly-placed thread brings a bit more life to these static images. The result is a multi-textured design that becomes immediately more compelling than its previous version.
Romussi has a background in landscape design and didn’t begin experimenting with personal artwork until fairly recently. You can stay current with Romussi’s work by visiting his tumblr page. (via farewell kingdom)
Salt Lake City based artist Stephanie Kelly creates beautifully detailed illustrations out of thread. The series featured here is entitled “Dwellings” and speaks to the theme of domesticity that informs Kelly’s use of embroidery and her attempt to reclaim craft as fine art. Painting with thread instead of oils gives her work depth and tactility, creating rich and voluminous textures and blends. Kelly embroiders thread and fabric wallpaper pieces onto stretched canvases, which gives her work this remarkably detailed multi-textured design. Kelly began as a painter and illustrator, and was eventually given the opportunity to work with whatever medium she desired and decided to combine her skills with her love of craft. Kelly says her grandmother taught her to embroider and that this has largely inspired the domestic theme that permeates her work. Kelly’s painter’s eye applied to embroidery reminds me of the last embroidery work I posted, featuring Ana Tereza Barboza. You can watch a video profile of Kelly after the jump. (via from89)
Most of Ana Teresa Barboza’s embroidery work centers around the body. There are usually sharp contrasts of color imagery embedded in her work, and sometimes, she will use graphite to draw on her fabric before beginning to stitch. These mixed media pieces address the fragmentation of the body, as well as the ability to mold and sculpt our bodies, and how we use them to cultivate identities. Barboza’s work also makes us deeply aware of the internality/externality of our bodies and the primality with which they exist in relation to others.
In addition to these basic concepts, her work is often humorous. Something about embroidery in general renders its subjects playful, as it never seems to take itself too seriously. It therefore becomes the perfect medium for Barboza’s subject matter. A scene that would normally be perceived as grotesque – such as a woman pulling our her entrails – becomes absurd and funny. Perhaps it has something to do with the delicacy and softness of the form and medium. Regardless, Barboza’s work leaves me with a smile.
Colleen Toutant Merrill works in fiber– from stitching to embroidery; and interestingly enough, it makes sense that she would use such a traditional folk medium to examine contemporary subject matter such as social media, Google, and Google Maps. These Internet resources are, essentially, a modern day electronic quilt of sorts, piecing together not only our societal curiosities or interests, but also our performative identities in a community.
On this note, Merrill explains, “Quilting bees and embroidery traditionally served as social outlets and communication. Quilts and embroidery both have encoded symbolism and explicit messages as do digital communications.”
London-based artist Julie Cockburn revises old throw-away photographs and paintings with embroidery thread, shears, and other sundry items to create new contemporary curiosities. Each delicately considered piece contemplates craft culture in relation to the industrial age or mass production, and the identities that roam invisibly from one transmission to the next.
Of her work, Flowers Gallery suggests, “Julie introduces ideas to found objects that generate dialogue about modernity and art history, gender and identity, nature and urbanity and the relationship between process and idea.”