In 2012, I guest-curated a show, Mending =Art, at the Gershman Gallery in Philly. Miriam Seidel was the amazing woman in charge of the gallery, who helped, guided and taught me. This is the art in that show. If your interest starts to wane, make sure to skip to the end, to artist Dorothy Caldwell.
Ilaria Margutti (Italy) sews women 'fixing their faces'. She beautifully transcribes the application of makeup into stitchery.
Mend of Me Mend Face lll Mend Face lV Mend Face V Mend Face Vl Mend Face X Apprx 20 x 20” each 2009 Italian artist Ilaria Margutti creates beautiful machine and hand embroidered portraits of women mending or making themselves. At a glance these women could be applying make up on a closer look the women are stitching on their own lips or lipstick with luscious red thread. The viewer is in the position of the mirror that these women blankly stare into as they stitch into their own faces.
Sally Spinks sews Random Acts of Kindness: she knits tiny little sweaters for naked women in museum paintings! She does her stitching on postcards, and we were lucky enough to display several of her beautifully framed pieces.
Random Acts Of Kindness 6 pieces Size: 9 x 6”(framed) 2009/10/11
Sally has developed a deep interest in the notions of comfort/ discomfort connected with our associations to hand knitting. This series of works, Random Acts of Kindness, shows images from old master paintings that have been patched over with hand knitted garments to alter the meaning of the painting. The knitting provides warmth and can provoke memories of our own comfort and coziness.
Wolfie E. Rawk and their Body Mapping–Never Give Up, an embroidery on canvas. I wanted their piece in the show even before learning that it reflects their experience as a transgender person.
Body Mapping – Never Give Up 2008 Size: 66” x 30” Wolfie E. Rawk's work deals with themes of transgender body experience and identity, violence and healing. The first of a series, "Body Mapping - Never Give Up" uses the tradition of embroidery samplers to discuss the body-self relationship. Samplers have traditionally been used to demonstrate needlecraft skill, serve as a visual reference bank for an artist and were thought to be a sign of achievement and industriousness. Based on a tracing of the artist and mixing traditional stitches with "abstracted" ones, Rawk creates a visual field that shows a moment in the artist's own transition and transformation.
Amy Houghton (England) made a video showing a baby's sweater being unravelled. As you sat at the desk and watched, the handknitting became undone. She sent the video, and I built the clear-topped desk here.
Cardigan Study90cm x 60cm x 70cm/ 4 minutes 2006
Amy Houghton uses her artistic practice "...to explore the hidden and revealed histories and stories related to old textiles and photographs..." she 'forensically' unpicks clothing and reanimates the process in film to try to understand and bring to life the nature and history of the garment.
Michael Swaine does mending as an interactive process. He sets up his old sewing machine in San Francisco and fixes the clothing that people bring him. We had a TV set up for the show, with a video of him in action. Sewing For The People DVD(under 10 min) current
Free Mending Library The Free Mending Library is a place to mend holes in our life. Sewing is a slow craft and the time it takes to repair something on the streets is always accompanied with lively dialogs between many strangers. Located in the heart of the San Francisco, the library is open on the 15th of each month. Neighbors bring clothes down from the many low income housing units, and meet at Cohen Alley where chairs are set up around an old treadle sewing machine that has been built into a cart.
Erin Endicott does beautiful embroidery, usually on pieces of clothing. If I remember correctly, she uses walnuts to create the brown dye. We were lucky enough to have a whole wall of her art:
Erin Endicott part of her Artist’s Statement
To stitch; a thread or line that holds things together – this is the literal translation of the ancient Sanskrit word “sutra”. The “Healing Sutras” grew out of years of work examining psychological wounds (mainly my own), their origins and how they insinuate themselves into our lives. I’m particularly intrigued by the concept of inherited wounds, specific patterns, behaviors, reactions, that we are born with – already seeded into our psyche at birth. So I imagine that this little ”seed” attracts negativity (like attracts like), sort of a little pearl slowly growing until we end up with a dense area of negative energy built up in our physical bodies. By bringing these dark areas into the light, by making them visible, I think we can heal these wounds. Some people talk through their issues to bring healing, some write them out to shed light on them , I choose to make them into visible, visceral objects. All of the “Healing Sutras” are on vintage fabric that has been passed down from women in my family. My history is literally woven into these garments
I found an interview with Erin, if you'd like to read more.
Counterpaine byJanet Haigh. Based on 14th century images of damaged hearts, this embroidered panel incorporates Buddhist hand positions, (all of which have meanings attached to them) employing a variety of mending techniques.
Mended Turning by Barbara Shapiro 2 1/8” x 6 7/8”
The pieces in my Mended Turnings Series reflect recognition of the need to recycle, repair and reuse what we have for the sake of our planet. I recently approached a group of wood turners offering to use my personal vocabulary of textile techniques to repair some of their vessels. I honor the exquisite work of my collaborator, Chuck Quibell as together we create truly unique pieces.
Libby Soffer allowed me to arrange these segments by eye. We painted the darker colored rectangle onto the wall, and pinned each piece on as we found relationships among them
Journal From the Studio each element 14” square 2008 Most art making is very deliberate. However, on occasion, I understand the nature of my work better in retrospect. This wall installation birthed itself as a result of letting my hands dip into the many textures and sensations that live in the midst of my work space. Although non figurative, my work is narrative. If the viewer “listens” carefully, they will enjoy the interior dialogue between themselves and the materials.
German artist Jan Vormann repairs the world, mending walls with Legos. He very kindly emailed us images, which we printed and hung.
I also had one of my pieces in the show - Repair Manual, an old binder of cloth pages. It combines directions for clothing repair with images of medical repair.
Saving the best for last, Dorothy Caldwell:
Years ago, I saw this at a Dorthy Caldwell exhibit. She included this patched child's dress, in the exhibit of her art, as an example of the beauty of mending.
see more athttp://www.dorothycaldwell.com/
Dorothy Caldwell uses mending techniques as a written language, a stitched dialect. Looking back on this now, as I write, I want to abandon my tablet series and go back to exploring that language, to write again in that darning vernacular.....
Lake200413” x 13” and Bowl 2004 13” x 13” Dorothy Caldwell draws her vocabulary from domestic textiles especially quilts and samplers and everyday domestic practices of repair and reconstruction - darning, mending, and patching.
I wrote to Ms Caldwell, begging her to participate in the show, and even though she was in the middle of other things, she very graciously sent 2 smaller pieces. I am forever grateful. And she came to the opening! I met her! She's a lovely person. And these photos don't come near to showing what her work is like. Go to her website!!
If you liked these pieces, make sure to see the next post....with the art that didn't get displayed in the show.