Janna and I met up on a rather chilly October day in 2014 in Tompkins Square Park, located in the East Village's Alphabet City, to offer an embroidery skillshare. This park, where hawks eat rats while people gawk, has been the site of many conflicts between NYC's homeless and transient population and the city, most recently under Koch's mayorship in a 1988 riot. Now that the East Village has been swooped in on by "fucking yuppies", to quote a NYC resident from the Blowback productions film "Captured", the vibe of the neighborhood is a little different. However, the park maintains a solid representation of "transients" for lack of a better term, and is shared by young skateboarders, families, goths, fashionistas and other neighborhood residents making their collective way to and fro.
We set up shop, inviting people to learn to embroider or showcase their existent skills on an indigo printed fabric designed by Janna entitled: "Why is a Rock". I love this piece of fabric. Something about the shapes and its inherent simplicity, the representation of the stones, they all speak to me at a profound level. Plus, it's a stunning piece of handiwork. So we sat with this fabric in the sunshine, embroidering and interacting with anyone curious enough to approach.
A couple of hours in, we moved to a tabletop location where the above photo was shot. We soon discovered, upon moving ourselves there, that it was a hangout spot for folks that spent a lot of time at the park, and there was a lot of activity that moved around us. Some people engaged with us and tried their hand embroidering, others just acknowledged us and went about their business. There was no beef about encroachment of territory, we were doing something just weird enough to garner a certain level of respect. We lasted in that spot another hour or so before packing up, all in all a good day spent in the park. I believe we may have even seen a hawk eating a rat that day, up in a tree as we were walking out.
Tompkins Square Park I, photographed above, is currently on display at The Kube studios in Gibsons, BC alongside three of Janna's tapestries. The opening will be held on Friday, January 12th from 6-9pm, at 101-875 Gibsons Way.
I pulled elements from the photo: the bricks, the yellow leaves, the indigo "rocks" in the fabric, one of the embroidery hoops, and integrated them into the composition. I finished the piece off at the top with a representation of the park bench, and Janna's red handbag miniaturized, sitting upon it. The blue wool that represent the "rocks" in the fabric was indigo hand-dyed in the front yard of one of Janna's Jersey City apartments.
A playful, indirect representation, the composition of this tapestry erases the spatial distinctions apparent in the photograph. There are no people in this shot - even though the skill share was based in human interaction - and I wanted to build upon this idea of isolating a moment in such a way that it abstracts the event it was taken within. This photo, and the representative tapestry, are but glimpses of an event that took place and included the many human - and non-human - movements of the park. In both isolated representations - one based upon the other - you see the leaves from the trees and one sole park bench; the traces of the skillshare - a blackboard already wiped clean, the embroidery hoops with nobody working at them.
So the tapestry both holds memory and simultaneously fails to portray depth of experience. In giving the tapestry the same background color throughout, I was intentionally divesting the it of dimensionality, hoping it would read more as representation of idea than as a still life. I wanted the idea behind the piece to become a source of interrogation for the viewer. In deconstructing the image of this isolated moment, my hope was that the context of our skillshare and our collaborative work as social practice could embed itself within the work. Beyond being a representation, the intention was for it to be a continuation of our collaboration - a living, breathing, active participant in the evolution of the project of Everlea.
Come see our new work in an exhibition at The Kube studios in Gibsons, BC Canada
We are installing four large tapestries at The Kube for the month of January, 2018. Each tapestry represents a response to times we (Janna and Katie) spent together in our shared art practice since 2013. They are highly interpretive depictions of moments captured in photograph - reflections upon reciprocity's ability to alter relationship, including the creation and consideration of art.
We see our woven artwork as a negotiation between the art world, which is so white-box-centric, and our attempt to show evidence of the invisible materials of our relationship, as art, within it.
Here is a bit more about this project
Our collaboration began in 2013 in New York City with the primary purpose of supporting each other in our respective art practices. In the handball courts of East Harlem’s Jefferson Park, our first photo shoot felt more like a public performance of our art practice than the menial task of documenting artwork. As our lives and art practices grew alongside each other Everlea evolved into a relational practice where we began to consider our artistic relationship a living artwork in-and-of-itself. Inspired by Joseph Beuys’ conceptions of art as an active, living force and by the mutual aid within textile art traditions, our shared practice has compelled itself to continue even as we now live on opposite sides of a continent.
Our relational praxis manifests in many intentional forms. They include but are not limited to 1) Public interventions in which passersby are taught textile skills 2) We have engaged in art education classes together, and attended lectures and panel discussions about socially engaged art 3) Janna volunteered for three months in Katie’s workplace (New York City’s Community Service Society), designing and facilitating a therapeutic knitting group at a senior center in East Harlem 4) We teach each other skills like tapestry weaving and natural dyeing 5) We arrange professional photoshoots to document our respective artworks.
The photographic documentation for many of these events, including ones from multiple photoshoots that we organized to document our respective handmade textiles, is the starting point for the artwork in this exhibition. We have explored both the memories that these photographs conjure as well as the problematic nature of a photograph’s attempt to represent the complexity of a living moment.
Join us for the opening reception
Friday January 12th 6pm-9pm
101-875 Gibsons Way
There will be snacks and a cash bar
go to our Facebook event page
In the first seven day stretch of my summer residency at Fibreworks Studio and Gallery (aka the yurts) in Madeira Park BC I changed my design plans multiple times. Since this series is based on a catalogue of hundreds of similar photos of Katie and I with our respective artworks, I was able to weave and decide later which exact photo I was riffing off of. I settled on weaving just the handball court that many of the photos were taken in at Jefferson Park in Harlem, NY. This decision was in part based on the fact that I found it very hard to concentrate on weaving in an often busy, public space. So, weaving the simplest version of a photo, omitting bodies and artwork, was both time and sanity efficient.
In the 65+ hours that I spent in the yurts this summer I estimate that I wove for around 45 hours of it. This is the first time that I've been able to keep close record of how much time it takes me to weave a piece. It's a labour of love, my friends. This piece measures 39" X 28" and is woven with 100% Canadian wool spun at Custom Woolen Mills in Alberta Canada. I dyed two yellow colourways using the natural dyes osage, fustic and weld.
I will be at Fibreworks Studio and Gallery again on the last weekend of August from the 25th - 27th and then from September 26th-28th.
I am also teaching a one day introductory tapestry weaving workshop in Langdale on the Sunshine Coast for Fibre Camp. There are still spots available!
Hi all, Just popping in to let you know about a residency I have coming up on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of British Columbia Canada. During my summer residency at Fibreworks Studio and Gallery I'll will be exploring the ways in which relational art is either embraced or alienated in the context of an art gallery. I'll be weaving weft-faced tapestry for a body of work which is being created in collaboration with Katie as part of our years-long experiment in re-articulating our relationship as art. I'm interested in both the evocative nature of the familiarity of the photographs I'll be interpreting into cloth, as well as the problematic nature of attempting to make tangible the complexity of a living moment.
In addition to various public visiting hours (TBA) you are invited to join me on Saturday July 1st from 12-3 for a skillshare event where visitors can receive soft instruction on the art of tapestry weaving in a laid-back social setting. Instruction is free and there will be warp and weft for sale, or you can bring your own.
June 26th - July 2nd, July 11th -13th
August 1 - 3, August 25-28
Fibreworks Studio & Gallery
12887 Sunshine Coast Hwy
Madeira Park BC
"In our minds there is an awareness of perfection and when we look with our eyes we see it" - Agnes Martin
While this show ended on January 11th, the Guggenheim still has up on their website recordings about each of the individual paintings exhibited of the oeuvre of this artist. Widely shown alongside her contemporaries - mostly male - in the mid 20th century, Agnes Martin didn't appear to have a glass ceiling hovering above her head. In video interviews with the Canadian abstract artist, she says about her process that the best days are when she can keep her mind clear all morning. In these short films that were part of the exhibit, Martin says "If I think, I make a mistake. I do not think and I keep my mind empty... paintings painted by the intellect are not artwork... The inspiration is about emotion." I love this open admission of creation being an act that does not originate within us, but instead that we are a conduit for the creative process to happen. When we act with consciousness, but without the limitations of the judgment of our intellect, a transformative process is engaged. It seems that we are not alone in the act of creation, but collaborating with forces outside of our visible landscape. I believe many working artists can relate to this at times euphoric experience. This is what is felt to be taken away by inspiration, is it not? To feel you are merging with something outside of yourself. This is why emotion is scary - it is larger than ourselves, and can be difficult to control. Perhaps this is why Martin worked so much with grids and geometric shapes - to give structure and exacting form to unwieldy emotion.
Her works generated quite a bit of awe in me as I traveled up the circular museum, engaging with almost exclusively square and rectangular paintings. Lines line everywhere, horizontal, vertical, lines within lines. The vertical lines gave me the sense of a door in the wall, or a gateway to that elsewhere where the inspiration comes from. They offered a way through. My notes from my visit are works of poetry in themselves: "Subtlety. Pay attention. Power of difference", they read. A white piece entitled Islands I found to "vibrate and seem active in my gaze, almost twinkling back at me in the form of light." The Untitled #9 had an "arresting use of subtle variation in color to capture nature, uniqueness", and Untitled #16 gave me the "sense that I could dive right into the cool contour of horizontal line, and be forevermore calm, at peace, ephemeral." Her work gives the viewer a much more fantastical experience than one would expect from the formality of line. I am not keen to debate whether work has aura, that often-abused term, but her work certainly seemed to be imbued with a consciousness of some kind. It was alive. It wanted to engage with you at a level beyond the reasoning logic of your mind, and speak to you about the mystery that lies there, one we so often ignore.
In Homage to Life, the vivid emotion Martin speaks of as being her constant inspiration - and indeed the only inspiration she determines as true - was laid bare. There was an almost heavy sadness, but it was for the sake of beauty. The simplicity of her brush strokes expressed the finality of life, and yet an entire lifespan seemed to be packed within the shape of a trapezoid, if only you could imagine it holding every experienced moment. This dark, black shape was staking its claim on the grey canvas, it was declaring its life. Made of fluffy brush strokes, the darkness also suggested a softness which was ended in stark contrast at the harshness of the shape's straight edges.
At the uppermost step in the museum, the final piece is of a rainstorm. To end the show like this, with cloudy skies, and water dripping from the canvas itself - what else is life, it had me asking, if not to feel the drops of rain in the midst of a rainstorm. Is it nothing more than this? Somehow Martin's work was engaging the mystery, and simultaneously giving an answer. Yes, I felt the show said to me, yes this very moment that you are in, this is your life. In this very moment, this is where life is happening. Pay attention. There is nothing more, and nothing less, than this.
There is a wonderful book of essays on her work published by the Dia Art Foundation, titled after the artist. In it, Michael Newman begins his essay with these words: "Agnes Martin's paintings call for a certain kind of attentiveness. The paintings take time, and time seems to slow down in viewing them. Without grabbing our attention, they make us want to spend time with them." This is what I found. I was transported by her meticulous grids and her geometric forms in conversation with the world around them. They seemed to want to speak to me, in a language without words, and I wanted to spend the time to listen until I could ascertain what it was that they had to say.