AIR 9 Show & Tell, Part II
Here’s the second half of our two-part Artists-in-Residence Show & Tell series, where we interviewed the artists in our 9-month residency program about work they created at TAC and their overall AIR experience. Read Part I of the series, and learn more about our AIR program — the call for applications for Cycle 10 is currently open!
What are these?
Yuchen: I don’t ask myself what are they anymore. This program to me is a precious opportunity to play, to create purposelessly. They are nothing but my activities and their artifacts. When I started learning machine knitting, I noticed that the yarn naturally wanted to move towards one direction, that the manipulation of machine makes them curve, because of the way fibers are intertwined. And when I had a length that was long enough, it started to have a relationship within itself. And with various colors, it creates encounters between colors, between thickness, between densities. That’s what I know about them at this point. I’m still working with them, and observing what they are becoming. “What they are” also depends largely on the environment they reside.
In our last crit, you compared them to calligraphy.
Yuchen: There are many genres and approaches to calligraphy throughout history and all over the world. But what I’m thinking of specifically is Cao Shu (草书 – cursive script) which is about your presence at the moment when you write. It is usually created in a speedy way — continuous performance, there is no gap between each character. When people describe a piece of Cao Shu, they use words like Qi (气 – air), or Yi (意 – the intention of the artist). It is similar to the vocabularies we use to describe abstract expressionism because the meaning of the content is secondary, and what is most important is the artist’s performance. This performance stays vivid in the piece of calligraphy thousands of years later.
There are artists famous for writing after drinking, or using a certain kind of ancient drug, writing after a good bath and proper scent, writing when filled with anger or extreme happiness. I appreciate Cao Shu, in the way I appreciate some performance art. Dance. Music.
What are the similarities you see between Cao Shu and dance, music, performance art?
Yuchen: When you’re making a painting, you would paint it, sometimes with strong passion, maybe you will come back to it later. Some artists do it in a factory fashion: like Monet, he would have thirty paintings in production simultaneously and he would work on each a little bit everyday. Cao Shu has to be done once. It’s not rehearsed. It’s final. And every twist and turn, the speed, your movement, where you start, where you stop, where you place your arm and fingers and the strengths of your body, it’s all very physical. And that’s what makes me think of performance art.
One question I ask each resident is, what is a highlight of your AIR experience so far?
Yuchen: New materials. Working with new materials is always so enlightening — my body had never been placed in such posture before I learned weaving, and I had never understood how fundamental weaving has been as a craft of mankind. It makes me ultra sensitive to all fabric, and the history of textiles, motherhood, and how resources are circulating around the world. Learning something new makes what’s old new again — It gives me a new perspective.
Which technique do you want to explore more?
Yuchen: Every single one of them. Natural Dye. Weaving. Machine knitting. By exploring, I mean to find myself in this technique. I teach sometimes and when you teach a technique to a group of people, they will use the technique in different ways. When you’re learning something, you’re not starting from zero. You’re bringing your content, your style, your knowledge, your aesthetics, what you stand for and what you despise, into a new container. And that shows immediately. You have some decisions to make, and once you’re making decisions, you are revealing yourself.
Meghan: I take pictures all the time. I might be running late, but if I see something that catches my eye I snap a photo. These are pictures of collaged street posters. I used Photoshop to flatten them for screen-printing onto fabric. Here, I wanted to test the reaction of the image and the fabric it’s pressed into, just to see what happens. From top to bottom: I printed on silk organza, silver-laminated linen, velvet, and a woven plaid. The velvet’s nap brightens the background behind the paint adding an unexpected dimension to the print on fabric. I like exploring the type of textile in combination with paint. I am planning to scan and photograph more of the streets’ paint marks, collages, and built up images of paper, posters, ads, stickers, graffiti, doodles, accident, spills etc., and chop them up through the computer (Photoshop/Ai) to transform them even further, by adding more layers digitally. I want to make some sort of shirt collection with these found images!
How do you feel moving about the world, collecting these images for your art?
Meghan: It can feel awkward, when you’re bending down to pick up trash. I think I need to buy some gloves or carry a little bag.
What has been a highlight of AIR for you?
Meghan: This is the first time I’ve ever been in a space like this, where I’ve been able to put work on the wall and see it. In school, for fashion design, we would just have the moments when we were in class critiques to put things on the wall. That was it. There was not an active personal space to go into and see your project differently each day. With the studio, I can add ideas freely and work bigger. I like not being attached to anything, pin it here today and off the wall the next. Another highlight is the opportunity to learn with my fellow classmates for the program and become immersed in a new art community. It’s amazing hearing the process of other artists and how they approach their work. I love learning about new ways of thinking and everyone has so much to share.
Did you make a shift from fashion design to art, or is that something you’re still exploring?
Meghan: Career-wise, I would say I made a shift from fashion design to textile design. I have always been an artist. Going to fashion school, I saw myself working for a high-end ready-to-wear brand and designing clothing. Now, I am involved in a whole process that happens before designing the clothes: creating artwork for prints, painting colors, exploring color, and design research — the concept + dream of the collection. I’ve always been interested in clothing, and what people wear, and whatever is happening with clothes… So, maybe I am still exploring my place in the industry.
Rhonda: I’ve focused on sampling the different techniques we’re learning. Machine knitting and natural dyes were completely new to me. I’ve woven before, but I think every time you weave, you improve exponentially. It’s been really fun at the root of it all. I’m starting to think about how I’m going to incorporate that into the garments I’ve been working on. For the most part, I source materials, and then I’ll do different surface manipulations to them. I’m thinking about how I’ll expand that now with everything I’m learning. I’m thinking about doing some screen-printing with dye, and some flocking, which are two print techniques I haven’t worked with a lot in the past. On the knitting machine, I’ve learned the basics, but I’m looking to take a class to learn how to make patterns and different textures. I’m a little overwhelmed, if anything, because I just want to use it all. It’s satisfying to have different textile samples, I feel like I understand them better because I’ve made them or worked with them. I’m excited to see how that will change things, especially knitting machines I think that will be a game changer, because I can also make garments on the knitting machine without sewing.
I was really happy with these weavings. I can tell where the mistakes are, but I was satisfied with the mistakes. It wasn’t as stressful as when I first wove and to get a fabric that just feels solid is satisfying. The mistakes look like little glitches, and they don’t bother me as much as my mistakes in previous weavings. I’m really curious about weaving garments, as one piece, the same way you can on a knitting machine. I’m thinking also, a lot about how many materials I use and waste. I sweep my floor every day, and there’s a lot that ends up going to waste. Weaving or knitting garments directly on the loom or knitting machine would cut down a lot of waste.
What decisions were you thinking about in these weavings?
Rhonda: Texture. And what yarns would not make me totally insane. I became very attracted to blues, possibly because of our indigo dyeing workshop. I loved weaving this fuzzy, almost velour-ish material — it reminds of a terrible carpet at an airport, but I really like it at the same time.
What is an AIR highlight for you?
Rhonda: Learning to use the knitting machine. I’ve been meaning to learn it for a long time.
What is one thing you think about textiles that has changed through the residency?
One thing I’m doing different is to reuse a lot of materials I already have and be creative about where I’m even bringing those materials from, vs. trying to create custom fabrics in large quantities, i.e. the bottom-up. And it’s nice here, because we have a lot of fabrics to play with.
Hannah: This is “ Wobble” a receptacle created out of hand-painted rope. It’s a 50-foot piece of continuous rope, hand-painted and then hand-stitched. It’s an offspring of a bigger piece I created over the summer, but this is a bit more refined. I’ve attached these otherworldly rubber fishing lures which creates movement. Lately, my work is quite inspired by sea structures such as urchins and rocks. The rope was once a soft, malleable material, but once I painted and stitched it, it becomes a hard, concrete form. “Wobble” becomes a house for the plants to thrive in making it a focal point part of any environment. Generally, because it’s connected, they have to be placed close together. Their connection symbolizes the various interdependent relationships in life, for example, I’m fascinated by the sea, yet I’m constantly thinking about plants, and then of course, textiles is within me, so I’m going to do something I can fabricate.
Lately I have been going into pet stores and looking at various accessories people adorn their fish tanks with. I’m really inspired by how we create these different worlds for fish in our homes. That’s sort of what I’m trying to do for plants, by creating these whole other worlds for them to exist in our homes.
I started collecting washed up rope from beaches in Ireland, which I want to potentially incorporate into planters. It’s a win-win! I’m helping the environment and also utilizing free resources!
Up-cycling has always come second nature to me. However, when I started using plants I had to source unused and durable materials. Discovering this washed up rope that has been rejected by the sea — it’s the best thing I could do in every regard.
What is your AIR highlight?
Hannah: The highlight so far was definitely seeing the AIR 8 show. And the excitement I got by seeing these very talented people and knowing that I’m in the right place, doing what I want to do. That was an amazing start to the residency, and ever since, it gets better and better. And all the classes, but I think the show is the best — knowing that we will eventually get to that point in our artistic path.
What is one thing you think or feel about textiles that has changed through AIR?
Hannah: Trust the skills you have acquired and allow the materials guide your practice. Don’t over think functionality or the outcome of your work!
Interested in becoming an AIR resident? We are now accepting applications for Cycle 10! Learn more + apply.