When I was a very young, I loved fairy tales, especially the one that challenged a girl with spinning straw into gold. I loved the idea that something really mundane could be turned into something of beauty and value. That idea of change and transformation has been an underlying basis for my work.
As a child I was surrounded by textiles. My grandfather, a pattern-maker in a women’s dress factory, brought home buttons and trims from women’s dresses at the end of production runs. My step-grandmother, a talented seamstress, tailored coats and dresses for me. My mother hand painted designs on my clothes and knitted numerous sweaters. And there were plenty of scraps leftover for doll clothes.
My first attempt at a call for entry was at the age of 15 when I entered Seventeen Magazine’s Doll Contest. I received a doll face, a sock and instructions about how to construct the rest. Using wire hangers for hoops, an old green velvet dress of my mother’s for fabric and my grandfather’s lace trimmings, I created the gown, petticoats and underwear for a Queen Elizabeth I doll and sent it off. The doll, along with all the others, went off to Europe as gifts for underprivileged children.
I finished my high school years in Massachusetts, went off to major in biology at college in Philadelphia and then onwards for a master’s degree in zoology at Columbia University where I met my husband. For several years after that, packing and unpacking formed the rhythm of my life. We moved many times as he pursued post doctoral appointments until at last in 1969 we came to rest in Denver, CO where we have lived since.
During those years of formal education, my interest in art mainly took the form of visiting art galleries and museums wherever I lived and I did that at every opportunity. In Denver, however, with two small children, my fingers itched to do something creative and I began by weaving. I moved from weaving to batik, knitting, crochet, wrapping and even one macrame project.
As I continued with the batik process, I realized the limitations of my drawing abilities. I enrolled in a drawing class at Metro State College in Denver and then decided to continue for an art degree. Studio classes provided me with the vocabulary for thinking and talking about art. The art history classes gave me a context in which to appreciate and understand the big picture of contemporary art.
As I continued taking classes, I signed up for basic photography and it wasn’t long before I fell in love. Soon I sold the loom, bought an enlarger and set up a home darkroom. For the next ten years or so, I made photographs of locations in Denver that were large empty spaces such as outdoor plazas that reminded me of stage settings.
I made color prints of these images and then looked through piles of magazines to find photos of persons or objects to inhabit these spaces, cutting them out and collaging them onto my photographs. These photographs were the beginning of my own alchemical process of changing something mundane into something more exciting.
At the end of the 1980’s, due to changing circumstances in the family, I returned to school and became a clinical psychologist, practicing for about eight years before I retired. Certainly the basis of this profession was change and transformation. During those years of practice, I made no art but did a lot of knitting and continued to take photographs.
Upon retiring, I turned again to textiles and started art quilting, self-taught. For about six years I improved my skills and began to develop a resume by responding to calls for entry. I was producing work that followed the themes of the shows I entered, such as poetry, spiritual expressions, the American West and American holidays.
In 2010, everything changed. I was looking for a way to get more color into my work and asked my husband for ideas about how to do this. He said, “Why don’t you take some of your photographs and play around in Adobe Photoshop?” I gulped, terrified I would break something but he assured me I couldn’t. Before long, my favorite function was Undo. At first I just played with Image Adjustments, mostly Shadow/Highlights, Brightness/Contrast and Saturation. Then I entered the world of Photoshop Filters and that was the start of the rest of my life until now.
When I applied the first filter, I gasped. Because when the filter was applied, the size of the image went to 100% and was way too big even for my large monitor. What I was looking at was a small area of the whole image and it had become abstract. In that moment I could see the possibility of creating other images using the same process. And so it was that the theme of change and transformation that had been meandering though my work for years became central.
The process is completely unpredictable which is at the same time frustrating and exciting. I live for that “Aha!” moment when, after many trials and errors and successive steps, suddenly I see an abstract composition that works. Using paper-backed cotton fabric, I inkjet print the image out in panels, stitch the panels together, add backing and batting and quilt away. My work from 2010-2013 became a series called Transformations.
Since then, using the same processes, I have completed a series called Playing InTraffic, inspired by the massive traffic delays and detours resulting from a terrific explosion of construction projects in Denver since the end of the recession. I have expressed my frustration with this never-ending situation by using bright saturated colors, chaotic intersecting forms and titles taken from traffic and road signs. In both these series my concerns are formal ones of color, value, shape, line, repetition and texture.
I am very happy and pleased that I have been able to bring together my love of photography and of textiles in this current work.