Periodically, BRIC invites artists and arts professionals to create a Short List of some of their favorite artists in the BRIC Contemporary Artist Registry curated around a common theme.
Through my work as an educator at Brooklyn's Textile Arts Center, I spend a lot of time thinking about textiles. Humans are the only species so entirely dependent upon, and deeply intertwined, with cloth. Our relationship with this material begins moments after birth, and one might even propose that cognizance of cloth is simultaneous with that of our own skin. Consciously or unconsciously, textiles play a role in our daily lives, on a spectrum equivalent to the diversity of our human experience. The core mission of the Textile Arts Center is to enrich lives through the awareness of cloth and fiber – through the learning of basic textile processes. How cloth is made and how its presence affects our planet are conversations that are currently gaining momentum - thus it is wonderful (and perhaps not surprising) to see a growing interest in the conceptual usage of textiles as a versatile and powerful medium for artists. In my approach to highlighting artists from the BRIC Artist Registry, I sought to feature those who are directly employing either the medium or the processes of textiles to amplify their concepts. I found an inspiring grouping of artists, each exploring a unique aspect of textiles to identify something about our environment, our psyches, or our relationships.
Artist Julia Elsas states that "much of her two and three-dimensional work involves the use of textiles." She openly acknowledges the conceptual power that associations regarding clothing bring to the table, specifically certain fabrics. In this case, Elsas composes delicate but powerful, collaged mono-prints using women's intimate apparel. As viewers, what we intrinsically understand three-dimensionally is now graphically offered up two-dimensionally. This abrupt transition amplifies the gestural quality of the clothing, accentuating certain elements of the garments, like seams and threads. The images are a kind of evocative, suspended choreography of human detritus, as seen through the powerful filter of textiles.
Artist Danny Coeyman has many diverse bodies of work. Here I focus on his sewn compositions, made from fragments of garments left in his home by past friends and lovers. In his statement, Coeyman says that he "[makes work] to move you because it is beautiful, which to [him] means it must somehow feel honest." These gentle, diligent, and inquisitive pieces indeed convey a truth-seeking, a way for the artist to come to terms with, pay homage to, or perhaps, make sense of the intimacy of his relationships to the garment's owners. In experiencing the radical shift in scale of these sewn micro-landscapes, we find ourselves suddenly privy to the moment of intimacy between Coeyman and the wearer.
The installations of artist J Carpenter expose the fragility of "protective structures" and of "the promise of sanctuary, safety and social justice" through the traditional textile process of lacemaking. Carpenter draws a link between the obsessive decoration of lace clothing that neither "shields nor warms the wearer," and the failing promise of "protective structures" like homes, umbrellas, and sidewalks, which she in turn now obsessively renders in lace form. This radical pairing calls into question our relationship to structure, as clothing, and as architecture.
Artist Emily Barletta highlights the element of drawing present in the technique of embroidery, with her systematic, plodding embroideries on paper. Barletta describes the drawings as meditations. Her use of the stitch as a mark, as an integer amounting to a pattern mimics the relentless internal mechanics of the working human body.
Through her quirky, felt sculptures artist Cyrilla Mozenter says she "confronts the ridiculous," and begins a personal dialogue with other artists and writers. Mozenter aptly and beautifully employs the "insulate and make quiet" nature of the material of felt to construct polar bears and other figures present in her mind, and in a piece of writing by Gloria Steinem. What strikes me is Mozenter's recurring impulse to exploit the factual materiality of felt (no armature required, compression and resistance always present) in order to converse with or respond to writers and thinkers that inspire her, highlighting the possibilities of textiles in three-dimensional forms as language.
Monique Luchetti states that "…at every moment, the cosmos is the expression of transitory adjustment of contending forces." Luchetti cites Darwin's finches as her portal to explore this notion but regularly chooses stretch hosiery and bathing suit material to construct her whimsical sculptures. On a formal level, this choice of material may in fact be all that is required to achieve her statement's goals. The inherent structure of a knitted fabric - its forgiveness of the non-conformity of the human body, its ability to bulge, to hold weight, to stretch - are all of its properties that make it so well-suited for the ever-shifting reality of "contending forces."
The works of artist Brigitta Varadi are composed of textile processes such as dyeing and felting, and are often community-based, meaning the artist at times engages with the community to facilitate the making of a piece. This tactic serves as a nod to the rich social component and collaborative element in the history of textile-making. We are thrilled at Textile Arts Center to welcome Brigitta as our 2014 Sewing Seeds Artist in Residence, wherein the artist will incorporate similar themes in her proposed project.
Our relationship to textiles is personal - so personal that we often cannot distinguish ourselves from them. That said, because of our dependency upon them, fiber has agency and power, and therefore offers us a charged and fertile medium for conceptual art. I appreciate these artists for their unique, individual concepts that are brought to fruition through their strong connection to textiles, and as byproduct, encourage us to further examine our own understanding of cloth.
ABOUT THE CURATOR: Jordana Munk Martin
Jordana Munk Martin, founder of Oak Knit Studio, is an artist, designer and educator who uses the power of textile arts to inspire learning, self-discovery and community engagement. In 2010, Jordana founded New York's first and only international residency program for textile artists, in collaboration with Brooklyn-based Textile Arts Center. As Residency Director, she is responsible for operations, admissions, marketing, artist development, academic curriculum and fundraising. Now in its sixth cycle, each ten-month program offers rigorous training, critical discourse and creative exploration for emerging textile artists and designers from around the world.
As the founder of Oak Knit Studio, Jordana produces "craftivism" events that channel the experience of textile arts to effect positive change. These events include "Thursday Night Knitting," a free, open space platform for a diverse community, where she teaches techniques in hand-knitting. Oak Knit Studio's annual "Knit-A-Boob" event, launched in collaboration with Viacom in 2009, has engaged over 600 volunteers in New York and Los Angeles to raise awareness about Breast Cancer, and produce thousands of hand-made prosthetics for survivors. Together with breastcancer.org, the world's leading online resource for information on Breast Cancer, "Knit-A-Boob" helps educate women and men of all ages on breast health and disease prevention, while teaching the skill of knitting.
Jordana received her MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design (2001) and her BA in Fine Arts from Brandeis University (1994). Additional study includes the Post-Baccalaureate Honors Program from Brandeis University (1995), The Winchester School of Art (MEFA, 1996), as well as residencies at the Chautauqua School of Art and the Vermont Studio Center. J
ordana serves on the Board of Trustees of the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, CA, and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, NY. She also lends professional support as textile advisor for Ritual Objects at Congregation Beth Elohim, and is an active advisory member to the Arts Advisory Council for BRIC Arts Media in Brooklyn, NY and the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.