follow it down

I’ve been doing quite a bit of embroidery and I am planning to start making things to sell soon. (“Soon” = probably not for a few months.) I could use the money and I enjoy embroidery quite a lot. It’s very pleasing to sit for hours stitching. If you don’t believe me, behold below the internet-sourced collection of embroidery I have scoured in a few obsessive fits.

Thanks to an article posted to ArtInfo about the Whitney Biennial, I found out about Elaine Reichek‘s work. The writer in me (“writer” + “me” = verbose, self-important, insatiable) really appreciates her use of quotes from friends, family, and literature. I also really like the cultural anthropological feel to her work, that is both intellectually and visually stimulating.

Detail of "Sampler (Scarlet Letter)", 1996. Hand embroidery on linen. Elaine Reichek.

Mr. X Stitch’s blog is a bit overwhelming for me. In a lot of ways. Here’s a bit of a sampler (oh yeah, embroidery pun): The Cutting (& Stitching) Edge. Really, I can’t even pick one image. There are so many talented artists posted to this blog. Embroidery as Art is another great embroidery blog, especially as an approachable and inspiring introduction to embroidery.

Mira directed me toward Kate Kretz and Erin Endicott’s embroidery. I had been thinking about hair embroidery because of how all my life I’ve been very interested in hair, to the extent that I collect hair in jars. (Although, for the record, no pubic hair.) And then I got the link to the hair embroidery of Kretz and it made me all the more excited to try it out sometime.

Oubliette 1 (detail), 2006. Human hair embroidery. Kate Kretz.
Healing Sutra #3. Hand embroidery on antique fabric stained with walnut ink cut to pattern of child's dress. Erin Endicott.

Husband found an article on Huffington Post about Kathy Halper’s work, which has a sense of humor and ugliness about its content that I can appreciate.  She uses images from Facebook that teenagers post of themselves, and it’s paired with text that heightens the kind of grotesque absurdity of the images. They’re not very visceral, though. Mostly outlines. At first this turned me off a bit, but considering the subject, it seems really appropriate. Most of the images include teenagers engaging some kind of sexual, pseudo-sexual, or intensely physical activity, implying a kind of hedonism, and yet there’s nothing truly sensual about what they’re doing. The images and the text are generic, belonging to anyone and no one.

Girl just have to accept. Kathy Halper.

I love the way Joetta Maue creates a kind of sentimentality that feels sincere yet lacks presumption. Admittedly, sometimes it goes a little too far for me, but that’s okay. My favourite pieces of Maue’s use a variety of fabrics, creating an odd sense of texture and space. But who doesn’t like embroidered handwriting? Only robots. Poorly programmed robots. So there’s quite a number of charming pieces on her website.

8 months, 2011. Hand embroidered, appliqued, and painted re-appropriated linen with found cloth. Joetta Maue.

There’s more, but I feel like I should stop now… until tomorrow.

Kwaidan: The Woman of the Snow

The second story in Kwaidan was The Woman of the Snow, about a ghost that can claim the lives of mortals. She appears to blow onto their faces, freezing them to death, and the victims are later described as having no blood (or something like that). Despite her desire to kill people during snowstorms, she is not entirely absent of other desires or pity. The cold, frightening, powerful ghost compared to the subservient, warm, loving wife is interesting, but most especially after you can see where they overlap and how her sense of power and compassion affects her speech.

In this story, the theatrical nature of the environments are heightened one step further. There are scenes where the environment does not look real at all, and surrealism takes over to depict the true feeling of the moment. Visually speaking, that was perhaps my favourite part of this story. The movement of the trees during the snowstorm (along with the music) and the first meeting of the ghost woman were, of course, not really something I could represent in a single screen shot. Or even multiple. It was a strange combination of stillness or silence, and specific, graceful, unhesitating action.

At the end, I thought a lot about identity. You might not want to read this part if you haven’t seen the movie. On the surface, she decided one night to test his vow of silence. He failed her test, and she didn’t kill him because of their children, but she did leave them immediately. Given the context, it’s not surprising at all that he would tell his wife about that night. So, really, why did she suddenly decide to leave?

It reminds me of other stories I’ve read about female ghosts, entities,spirits and so forth that match up with men, then suddenly leave and “return” to their dominant identity.

Kwaidan: The Black Hair

I learned how to take screen shots. Finally.

We watched Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan (1964) the other day. The stories and their theatrical visualization were really engaging, especially in the first three. The Black Hair had a moodiness to it that felt a bit gothic, but not merely for the sake of being “dark” and “creepy”. There were also some nice spatial relationships happening in quite a few scenes. My favourite part of it all was how his memory of his first wife was mostly confined to her work as a weaver, yet the lighting would change. When he was caught up in terror, the shape and colour of his terror changed rapidly. The hair, the separation of love and desire, the posturing of power, the decay from neglect, overgrowth, etc. are all old lovers. (As always, click image to view larger.)