Presenting: the work of four residents in our current AIR cycle. Through the fall, the artists in AIR have been learning a variety of textile techniques, including, machine knitting, natural dyeing, weaving, and screen printing. This is a showcase of four of the artists’ work, along with a discussion of their AIR experience up until now. The remaining four artists & their work will be featured on the TAC blog in January. Happy holidays!
Untitled (Fantastic Landscapes), work in progress, Lily Moebes, 2017
On her piece:
“They’re imaginary landscapes that I’ve been knitting on the machine. I first started machine knitting here at TAC and I love it because it’s a lightning fast way to generate a textile, whereas other methods might take a lot longer and are very process-oriented. With machine knitting, you get to know the machine, then you’re sailing. I’m looking at it as a way of drawing. With more practice, I think I can develop more figural representations but for now, I’m getting to know what kind of shapes and textures the machine likes to make. And then how can I take those shapes, be they these circular globules or slopes, that the machine naturally is predisposed to making, and put them together into something from my head. I started out knitting sunsets, and now I’m putting together fantastical, dreamlike landscapes from my imagination, which is something much more free-form than work I’ve done before. It’s more fun, more meditative; what other artists might paint from their imagination, I’m knitting with the machine.”
On the fact that both grew up in the Bay Area, where the horizon is made of hills and valleys, lush for a brief period in the year, and golden the rest of the time:
“I lived in San Francisco for a while, and an amazing thing about spending time there is that you associate the city’s many vistas with specific times in love. Driving from my house to my high school, I’d go down this intense hill that looked out across a dramatic slice of the city. Or maybe walking home, for a second, at an intersection, you might see this tiny piece of an amazing portion of a hill meeting the bay between two houses. You get these snippets of, not a chaotic landscape, but a really active one. Those views became so closely tied to my memory and routine, and I’m now rediscovering them in my machine knitting practice.”
On the impact of AIR on her art:
“I think I’m developing a textile superiority complex. I think as a medium, there’s an endless amount of ways you can work with and think about textiles that makes other mediums I’ve worked in pale in comparison. Not to say they are inherently better than other mediums, not at all, but there are so many tiny techniques in textiles with so much history. You could be a disciple of a lot of the techniques we’re learning for an entire lifetime, and still have more to learn. And at the end of the day, it all comes back to the fact that textiles are derived from fibers pushed together. When I think about all the different ideas that I have and how they sync in with the materiality of textiles in general, I feel like I have enough projects to last me for a decade- just after three months here.”
An AIR highlight:
“Getting to know the other residents. Our first critique was really lovely, because it wasn’t a place to tear each other apart, so much as I feel like we were spending quality time together as artists. It was time together, not time to do X, Y, or Z, or achieve X, Y, Z. There is the kind of care that comes with just being present with other artists and paying attention to them.”
Jamie Boyle, Bird’s Life, cotton, wool, 2017
“This is one of four weaving tests that emerged from some rather matter-of-fact practice last month. For exercise, I wanted to practice dressing a loom and try working on a loom I hadn’t used before. Doubling up on this practice, in the spirit of this section of the residency—in the spirit of ‘play’—I wanted to create a space for experimentation and exploration. Thinking of the the warp like I would a space for drawing and using a primary weft the same color as the warp, I built the ground for the drawing at the same time as I did the image. Working with the materials in the room, and some found objects I have collected, I made choices for what the drawings would be in a somewhat improvisational way, loosening pressure and allowing these weavings to emerge as little studies in themselves–not studies for future garments or any other thing.–just drawings. From a weaving perspective, Bird’s Life is so simple; the clouds are plain weave and the sky is a twill pattern, supplementary to the plain weave. The texture of the blue color is surprising and exciting to me; I like that has a sort of subtle vibration to it, maybe a result of the twill pattern.
I also like to play with text in my work. So, with these four little weaving studies, I was interested in also focusing on titles. From a personal perspective, Bird’s Life references a little story, titled “A Bird’s Life,” a few sentences long, that I typed on a scrap of paper on a typewriter as a child; that story has haunted me since I rediscovered it about 10 years ago. And, when I moved into the studio here at TAC, going through my things, I re-rediscovered it; that story is probably the best thing I ever made. I am just realizing this now, but the making of that little story, which has scratch outs all over it, was probably made in a similar way to how I made Bird’s Life, the weaving. It’s likely that I wanted to practice using a typewriter and made up that story as I went along…similar to this strategy of learning and exercising at the loom, while allowing space for creating the content in an improvisational, or intuitive, way.”
An AIR highlight:
“Having a dedicated work space is a real game-changer. I’ve been working from home for the past 7 years, and having a space without time restrictions, which can sometimes stay messy for days is wonderful. I had forgotten how ideas can emerge from the mess on the studio table! It’s like I am reviving an aspect of my practice that’s been dormant for awhile. It’s energizing to be here. I also love that we are in a very active environment. We can see each other while we are working, see the changes in each others studios that happen, sometimes literally, overnight. (I am sort of on the day shift here, and there are days that I don’t actually see some of my fellow residents, but I see the work and spaces transformed in the morning. It’s really great.) And beyond our small community of Artists in Residence, it is really inspiring to be amidst the whole TAC community; there are a lot of brilliant artists around here!
This section of the residency is very much without time restrictions, so having this feeling of open-ended, lingering time without a lot of pressure has been really nice.”
On the pressure to create:
“This past year, I worked on several theater/performance projects. With theater, the process leading up to showtime can be fraught with pressure; the audience arrives at a certain time and there is no way around that. It’s a really exciting environment, and I can thrive on that high pressure, for sure, working to the max until the very last second. Though, I look at my watch constantly…
I toured with a show this past fall, with a few weeks of the tour overlapping with this first section of the TAC residency. I feel really lucky to have had the sort of “super pressure” I feel with theater contrasted with the open-ended nature of “play” at TAC this fall. This contrast has helped me to be aware and consciously work to relieve myself of the pressure of achieving a specific outcome right now. Of course, there’s the challenge of keeping a pace going in the absence of external pressure, but it’s been valuable– and luxurious–to be in an intentional space of “unknowns,” allowing the new processes that we are learning lead towards new possibilities.”
One way her relationship towards textiles has changed through the duration of the residency:
During these first couple months of the residency, we have focused on learning new textile skills and techniques. It has been great to be a beginner in these forms, yet approach them not as a beginner at making things….It is nice to see the beauty in the beginner’s hand–a “badly” spun yarn, a tangled up knit, an uneven dye, an irregular weave, a poorly pulled print–and, though daunting, it’s been interesting to learn how to maintain some of these qualities, and make them replicable, by improving one’s skill and knowledge of a particular craft or tool.
It’s overwhelming and exciting to see that each of these techniques is a whole world in itself and that there are endless possibilities in deepening one’s study in them. Even if not following the path of certain techniques, it is valuable to have even the most basic overview of its possibilities. It’s like having future toolkits. I’ve also appreciated learning that each of these techniques has an attendant set of embodied moves, kind of like each technique has a choreography of its own.
Junyu Li, Untitled, work in progress, 2017
On her work:
“After I learned how to machine knit, my knitting was very messy despite my efforts to practice. I made a lot of holes, but I found the mistake to be really beautiful. I kept repeating and exploring the mistake to find out what it could become. Now I’m changing the color to make it part of an installation. I have more control of the messiness now, but I don’t know how much I should control it, and if in the installation, the messiness will be an important part of my concept. My work has been about the human body, and the pain of the body. The bodily pain we feel does not only affect us materially, on the outside, but can also cause inner anguish. People have memories of scars, for example. I also researched what people do to their body to make it feel pain. It’s also cultural, like the corset or foot-binding. These things also tend to happen to women and I consider my work to be feminist. It reflects the pain done to women in a male-dominated society. My work respond to that, but I don’t want to be too obvious, so I incorporate humor and play as well.”
Her AIR highlight:
“I really love the atmosphere of learning new textile techniques here. My education prior to the residency focused on critique, review, and seminars, but we didn’t have classes on textile techniques. In this part of the residency, we’re exploring a new technique almost every week. Through our classes, I’m learning techniques and also thinking about how to use them in my work.”
How her relationship to textiles has changed through AIR:
“Since learning different textile processes, I want to explore each of them more. In the past, when I want to create something, I learned an individual technique for that concept. Here I’m learning the technique first. For example, I learned how to machine knit and afterwards it became a part of my work. The process sequence has changed, which is interesting. Previously, I planned very well before starting a project but here I play around and then think about how I want to incorporate these techniques into my work.”
Cory Siegler, Knitting Experiments, yarn, 2017
On her work:
“These are quick experiments with the knitting machine, getting to know the machine and exploring its possibilities. I see them more as samples/sketches, not finished pieces. I didn’t think too much about the color choice while making these but I gravitate towards these colors a lot. Orange is one of my favorite colors, and I’ve been using a combination of orange and navy, and yellows a lot. When I’m approaching a new process or technique, I often use these same colors to see how they look translated into different mediums. In my work I have been creating a visual language, like hieroglyphics almost, made of these repeated shapes, stripes, and structures that I return to a lot. While making the knit pieces I tried to be in control, but since I didn’t have a good command of the machine, the pieces took on their own life. That’s when I started arranging them on the wall, because they make this nice assemblage together. Even the tangled-mess-ups that were trying to be pieces, but didn’t cast on correctly — I put those up too. I liked how they looked all arranged together as a weird collection of objects, and it reminded me of this other scrap project I have been continually working on.”
“These are fabric scraps that are leftovers from other patchwork pieces and quilts I’ve made. Whenever I make something that’s patchwork-pieced, I always keep the scraps and sometimes I reuse them in new work. I started this project that’s a series of scans I do, directly on my scanner bed, with different compositions of the scraps, that I made into a little book. I like that they are these random, leftover shapes. I like it as a counterpoint to the other work I do, which is very controlled and contained, while this is a more free-form exercise. I’m letting go of my control, and letting the shapes and pieces dictate the outcome.
An AIR highlight:
Coming in every week and learning an entirely new technique and process has been very exciting and stimulating, and taken me out of my comfort zone. I was excited to learn about fabric dyeing, which I could definitely see incorporating in my work. The machine knitting was very fun. I don’t know if it’s something I’m going to continue, but I just love the machine as an object. It’s a machine, but it’s totally analog, and tactile, and has a life of its own. I’ve been really excited about being in classes again, because I haven’t been in a classroom environment since I was an undergrad, ten years ago.
One thought about textiles that has changed through the residency:
The residency has opened me up a lot more to the possibilities of textiles and what a textile can be, and what it can be made into. I came into it making quilts, which is a conventional textile object, and I love making quilts, but the residency, and getting to know the other residents’ artwork, has expanded my viewpoint of the work I can make with textiles. While I want to continue quilt-making, I’m thinking beyond the quilt and applying the quilting technique to sculptural objects. I’m now exploring three-dimensional structures, and thinking more about the architecture of quilts, and creating more or an environment or installation of my work.