Materiality

January 7th, 2007 § 0 comments

In preparing for my candidacy this semester, (my show or body of work that is reviewed by the entire faculty and who’s favorable outcome means that I get to stay on for my last year, although I don’t really think that they could make me leave), I have been worrying more about the materiality of the pieces I am making and how I am going to talk about them than the work; the work is making and resolving itself, so to speak. Defining it successfully within the confines of the program seems a bigger challenge, though a potentially unnecessary one. I am sure I have mentioned it before, but I go back to the two questions of my last critique because I am sure they are going to rear their ugly heads again and in a more unpleasant way—the next time I will be expected to answer.

Q. “Why are you using the materials you are using” & “How are your images fiber, or like your fiber work”?

The first question seems to me a very important one, and something I always think about before I start a piece, although going back and trying to explain why I take pictures as opposed to drawing or painting is not as easy to answer. As I have tried almost all mediums, is it a preference that I have towards cameras? The most experience? Or the way I want to show what I see? The reason that I am in a fiber/material studies program is probably because I take my images and print them on different surfaces—the reality I create is not bound by photographic paper. When I think back I was always, always putting my images onto or into something else. At COC it was sculptures because I was in a lot of sculpture classes, and in my earliest photo classes most images were collaged. I wish I had images of my early work, but then again I do not. Working with fabric seemed a logical surface choice, and since that worked well for me making the fabric seemed another logical choice. Weaving for me is like creating an image. But I am by no means limited to cloth, as some (Susan) would like me to be, and since I have been working with digital images I have returned to paper since I can print on whatever I want.

The second question seems to me ridiculous on all fronts, and I am at a loss as to how to answer it. It felt like it was asked at the point in my crit when a certain someone had run out of things to comment on, and as Clarke says, was looking for something to say. I don’t really want to be a “fiber artist” any more than I want to be a “photographer”, and it seems that my photos only have to be fiber because, as Susan says, I am in a materially specific program, which I guess I had not realized, and I am sure photographers would be only too glad to excuse my images as “fiber”. Since no one really wants to claim my work, I don’t want their title and would rather just be an artist. This still leads one, however, to ask the, alright you are an artist, but why images on handwoven fabric?, question. I think another reason they ask is because all my work looks the same, in a good way(?), it is all driven by a way of thinking and looking, because it is all made by me. Obviously. I think they think that because I am so focused in my process they are being left out of some grand and overarching theme or thought that binds all of my work, and by asking these questions that is the answer they are looking for. This seems reasonable, and discussing the thought process behind the way I work is the most logical answer to this question. Of course I just realized that in writing this. Why can’t they just ask, is it another one of those situations where they say, “shh, don’t tell her” and I am left standing there wondering what it is they think they know that they assume I don’t. I like to think I can answer any question about my work, but this one really had me confused.

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