RECEIVED: TEXTile Mail-Art and AMAZING Paper Weaves from Cheryl Penn (KwaZulu Natal, South Africa)

Mail-art by IUOMA member Cheryl Penn (KwaZulu Natal, South Africa)


May 9, 2011 - The image above by Cheryl Penn is easily the most intricate and beautiful text-weave I've ever received. This is part of a chapter for a collaborative mail-art book built around the alphabet and verbs. 


Currently, there is a great deal of interest in incorporating textiles and sewing into mailart: Skybridge Studios (Indiana, USA) is gathering exceptional materials for a show; Keith Buchholz (Missouri, USA) has put out a call for textile art to honor George Macunias; Marie Wintzer (Japan) is creating wonderful textile asemics; Angie Cope (Wisconsin, USA) is making textile Sandpo - and I've barely scratched the surface.


It seemed like a perfect time to post Cheryl's chapter because, to me, it's a thoughtful exploration of the relationship between text and textile as well as a mapping of possibilities using paper and thread. The fabric-based practice of sewing is connected to writing and drawing. Here's the opening page:



First, this is done on beautiful and subtly colored paper that unfortunately does not scan well. I think you can get some sense of the texture. This chapter could easily be a stand-alone book:



For me, some of the appeal of work that uses textiles is that thread and fabric lend themselves well to work that is organic and connective. Cheryl speaks to this on the right-hand page with the lush thread overlay on a partially deconstructed grid. Cloth and thread are very clearly MATERIAL to be worked with, and I think this concept is brought to the forefront in Cheryl's chapter. One is not encumbered by the abstractions associated with word and page. The grid concept is carried over to the next page, where we are also ushered into the field of weaves:


The weaves are made even more complex by page overlays (the fact the weaves have been built into the book) so the viewer is given a number of different possibilities. I might be missing an essential narrative strand, but I find the printed words (outside the weaves) curiously disconnected from the textile pieces, which is very unusual in the Cheryl Penn work I've seen.



Then one of the more pronounced structural elements resumes, accompanied by some concrete poetry. This chapter definitely has everything:


Here's the final page:



"Be careful how you weave" is cautionary. This statement is most likely a clue to the artist's intent. I detect deconstructive play taking place in "Weaving." Thread is used throughout to represent the organic and connectivity: unity rather than fragmentation. The thread seems to have an asemic function. In the written-word fields of the book, there appears to be a questioning, caution, or downright mistrust of language - a floating contradiction throughout the chapter that is never resolved.


This theme has been appearing in other work by Cheryl recently. As I've written in previous blogs, many writers have noted that both modernism and postmodernism address a failure of language - a sad state of affairs - perhaps akin to painters losing faith in paint. Cheryl has been showing similar tendencies recently. Where will she take us next?


Many thanks CP-SA for this wonderful chapter.


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Comment by De Villo Sloan on May 9, 2011 at 9:12pm

Cheryl always seems to have a way of identifying issues of concern to many. I respect her vision in this recent work of course. I try to avoid the stance of the BIG movement of our time - postmodernism - which often seems like a monument to the perceived failure of language. Bifidus is always good at stating things succinctly and expresses my own sentiments. Even if Cheryl's view is a bit dark right now, I find hope for the future in her work.


Marie - I don't think making these weaves is easy. Yes, this one seems to be a triumph on many levels. 

Comment by cheryl penn on May 9, 2011 at 5:42pm
I am trying to write a blog about asemics DVS has sent me. I'm in the hole of a post literate society. Bleak for sure. Bifidus - you're right. We still seek the beauty of words and language through what we write and portray as artists. Thank goodness. No DVS, YOUR asemics did not take me there :-)
Comment by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) on May 9, 2011 at 3:09pm

s "language is shrinking"? No words to weave anymore? No books to write? Sounds bleak. With the onslaught of the digital gadgets, and oh so many "images, images, images" perhaps "weaving words" will take on a new development. How did the dear monks feel, after writing on scrolls or hand-scribing into a codex, carefully, artistically, pain-stakingly...and then , bam! there came that slip-sloppy guy, Gutenberg, with his printing gadget?

And now we are away from the printing presses to the electronic....soon not even "typing" but just "voice" paper, no ink, no gentleness of "books" and "poetry"? It will be a change-over, as it was for the poor scribe, putting down quill and scroll.

BACK to the BOOKS! 

(NetBook, MacBook, FaceBook?)

Comment by Bifidus Jones on May 9, 2011 at 2:43pm
Great blog, De Villo, for a great body of work. it does feel like language is slipping away, especially the beautiful bits, but i also think there are many of us trying to bring back the things we chose to lose and the things we forgot to remember and we're doing it through art and writing which we'll see more of in the future. Maybe. Thanks again you two--i always know i'm in for a visual and intellectual breakfast when i see one of de villo's posts.
Comment by Marie Wintzer on May 9, 2011 at 2:40pm
I mean weaving not waving :-))
Comment by Marie Wintzer on May 9, 2011 at 2:34pm

Oh my, am I loving this or what?!

Be careful how you weave.. your words = language might be harmful, wave it with care. Can't take my eyes off this piece, really. 

Still waiting to see DVS's choice of words for that project.

Comment by De Villo Sloan on May 9, 2011 at 1:33pm
Thanks for the commentary. This vision is a bit more bleak for sure. It reminds me how some people see the whole body of Samuel Beckett's work - shorter and shorter texts - as a movement from words to silence. We more likely think of language as something constantly proliferating. This idea of reduction is something to consider indeed.
Comment by cheryl penn on May 9, 2011 at 1:22pm
DVS - thank you again - you do us BOTH proud! A cautionary tale for sure. And now, language is shrinking so, that soon there will be no words to weave anymore. No books to write, no poems to recite.  The extent and beauty of the spoken and written word is being reduced to words of four letters or less. Soon even 'grunt' will be one letter too long :-(
Comment by Katerina Nikoltsou (MomKat) on May 9, 2011 at 12:27pm

Amazing weave-work by Cheryl! Pure poetry!

...and I will follow this great blog by Sloan,

with a far humbler one of  mine for Cheryl's mail art that came today to Greece!



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