American artist Cayce Zavaglia considers herself a painter. “Although the medium employed is crewel embroidery wool, the technique borrows more from the worlds of drawing and painting”, the artist comments on her statement.
Manipulating color, especially paint with a brush, is obviously easier than manipulating color with varying wool strings and needles. That seems kind of impossible, don’t you think? Zavaglia makes it looks like a seamless process, laborious but not too difficult to actually achieve.
“Initially, working with an established range of wool colors proved frustrating.”
Painterly portraits demand for loose brushstrokes and intermingling colors, varying tones, and contrasting hues; creating a technique that would allow her to do this with wool strings was something that Zavaglia struggled with. However, with time, she came up with a system of sewing the threads in a sequence that would ultimately give the allusion of a certain color or tone. The system allowed for the threads to mimic the depth,volume, and form that we are familiar with in paintings and color drawings.
My work unabashedly nods its head to the tradition of tapestry and my own love of craft. Using wool instead of oils has allowed me to broaden the dialogue between portrait and process as well as propose a new definition for the word “painting”.
Erin M. Riley takes the images that usually live on Snapchat, Tumblr, or the privacy of your own phone and translates them into tapestries. They are pictures you wouldn’t want your parents to see. They feature naked and half naked women, drug paraphernalia, used condoms, and more. In an interview with Arrested Motion, Riley states, “I try to take pictures of the condoms after I have sex, the pictures I send to people, pictures of tables at parties, substances & liquids that change the course of events.”
If broadcasted the world, these are the type of photos that would really embarrass someone. Riley takes time to translate these experiences into large, detailed, and colorful weavings completed on a loom. In the same interview, she goes on to say, “I am taking the time to recreate these images as physical tapestries, because these are the events and objects that are significant to me. Tapestry allows images to be given more time, for hookups to gel, for mistakes to be thought over, its a way to over analyze every detail.” This is a cathartic activity for the artist, who says that there is an ebb and a flow in her images over time. Sometimes, they will be more aggressive or explicit, then scale back. Riley says that it’s a reflection in her own life, and she’s open to sharing this with her viewers. Doing so gives the opportunity to start a dialogue with people who admire, question, and collect her work. She’s happy to have conversation with people who might not broach the subject without the help of her tapestries.
Part of the success of Riley’s work is the way it is produced. She combines two different worlds; weaving, an old art form that requires a lot of skill, and the digital age, one that is very focused on instant gratification and accessible by nearly everyone.
New Media artist Phillip Stearns contrasts two mediums in a way that also conjures unexpected similarities. Stearns has considerable experience with glitches – he’s the author of a Tumblr blog that presented a different glitch screen shot each day. He went on to combine the cold digital spattering of glitches with warm textiles such as blankets and tapestries. The pixels translate strangely well from screen to weave, the glitches not being lost in translation from one medium to the other. Stearns says about his project:
“The Glitch Textiles project was started in 2011 with the goal of exploring the intersections of textiles and digital art. The idea was simple: Transcode glitches in the cold, hard logic of digital circuits into soft, warm textiles. Following a successful funding campaign on Kickstarter in 2012, Glitch Textiles has grown to include a range of woven and knit wall hangings and blankets whose patterns are generated using images taken with short circuited cameras and other unorthodox digital techniques, including data visualization aided by the use of tools developed for digital forensics.”
Artist Joanne Arnett‘s artwork reproduces mugshots in a uniquely meticulous way. She painstakingly recreates these images as woven textiles. Mixing thread a wire, the result is similar to a shimmering newspaper photograph. Mug shots are generally thought of as utilitarian, empty of aesthetic, and quickly forgotten. Arnett wittily juxtaposes this against the form of a tapestry – valuable textiles often passed on as heirlooms. Interestingly, the title of each piece is the accused’s sentence. For example, the title of the first image is “Two Years and a Fine of $2,000″.