Monday, May 30, 2016

The Birth of the Textile Towers #1 - Perseverance


Textile Towers - left to right - Perseverance, Patience, Prudence 
Odyssey Within is the theme of a current exhibition I am showing with my friend, Bobbi Oliver at Timeless Textiles Gallery, Newcastle, NSW. Our exhibition is a celebration of  the journey we have taken as individuals and as artist friends over the 15+ years we have known each other. My art journey started with beads and clay, followed by embroidery and textile art, and currently I would say I work in mixed media. Over the last few years, I have also included my love of literature and photography into the mix - even though I would hardly call myself a literary scholar nor a photographer! And so, the textile/mixed media towers became an idea in my head and for over a year, I have been thinking about them and  planning them, and all of a sudden, when I wanted to make towers as homages to Homer (the classical Greek poet)  for this exhibition,  I had a brain freeze - nothing! I procrastinated until it was almost too late to execute them and finally asked Bobbi for some inspiration. I had been to my local hardware supplier and bought garden plant trainers ( large conical wire shaped "towers" to work from). Within 5 minutes of my explaining the idea, Bobbi posed the question, "Why are you working with those wire shapes? You  don't work with wire - you work with sticks! " That was the "aha" moment. Once I gathered some sticks - the towers as you see them were conceived! 
 Perseverance is  pentagonal narrative mixed media tower, based on the Greek hero,  Odysseus from "The Odyssey", an epic poem describing the long journey home after the Trojan War. The structure is constructed with five pillars ( sticks) and wrapped with art cloth... the inside is lined with hand dyed fine cotton. The exterior  "walls" are gesso painted fabric, with layered gauze, newspaper, and tea bag paper, with some photos printed on fabric and some stamping. The decorated and layered fabric has been stitched  and textured both by machine and by hand.
The  textured walls are to give a "weather-beaten" feel to the tower, demonstrating the ten years at sea Odysseus spent battling storms, monsters and temptations -adversities imposed by the gods.
The "distressed" panel is a further reference to the hardship experienced at sea. It is painted, stitched and burnt Lutrudur which allows a glimpse of the flying women-bird creatures, the Sirens, sent by the gods to plague the hero.  One of the Sirens sits triumphantly on the top of the tower.  

 The "floor"  however indicates hope  and is covered with  bright hand dyed and waxed paper and  features a central embroidered tile in gold work. It is said if one dreams of a gold leaf, there is hope of a successful future.  


The Bird/woman creatures have polymer clay faces and the hanging ones are created from fabric. The one perched on the top is made using a technique learnt from a workshop with Bryant Holsenbeck - a wire armature, with discarded plastic bags, and wrapped with thread and fabric. The wings are hot glue motifs, made by dropping swirls of hot glue into a bowl of icy water.

Siren ( Perseverane above and classical illustration below) 
 The Odysseus figure has an air dry clay face covered in gauze and overpainted. The body is a stitched fabric body made from hand dyed  cotton and the wrap is shibori indigo dyed natural silk. The figure stands steadfastly looking ahead, indifferent to the dangers the tower walls suggest. 

I chose tones of blue for this tower of perseverance because  not only is it the colour of sea and sky, it is often symbolizes confidence, wisdom, intelligence, integrity and perseverance . Blue also creates an inner security and calmness  - a quality for any journey. 

All inquiries about the purchase or display of this art work from the exhibition "Odyssey Within"  may be directed to Timeless Textiles Gallery www.timelesstextiles.com.au 
Please watch this space in the future for  explanations and descriptions of the other two textile towers in this series : The Birth of Textile Towers #2  - Patience and The Birth of Textile Towers #3 - Prudence 

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