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.