Next Friday, March 11, marks the opening of Teem, a collaborative installation by Mary Babcock and Christopher Curtin. A first for Textile Arts Center!

Teem superimposes metaphors of water (movement/potentiality), and the sea (the infinite, comfort, danger, aloneness) to evoke a sense of dreamspace — the space of possibility. Using textiles, Teem creates an environment where viewers find themselves under the surface of the water at the powerful juncture where river currents meet the ocean tides, where the individual meets the collective.

(Previously installed as “Deluge”- see below)

Chris will be joining us for the Opening Reception, giving a talk that night on concept and installation. Unfortunately, Mary, the fiber artist of the two, is located in Hawaii and will be unable to join us… However, in preparation for the installation that will begin tomorrow I’ve been looking at Mary’s work a ton.

Through performance, installation, and textile media, Mary focuses on many familiar issues to us (war, revolution, natural and manmade disaster), through the idea of “mending” — something we’ve been talking about a lot lately around here.

Epitaph – Created in response to the US invasion on Iraq. TheWedge Gallery, Asheville, NC, 2003

Dirty Laundry – Performance/installation created in response to the US invasion on Iraq. TheWedge Gallery, Asheville, NC, 2003

In Mary’s words: “My work explores ‘mending’ and its implications for cultural change. Although I work across traditionally defined media and conceptual boundaries, the grounding point for my work is in the metaphors derived from fiber processes (e.g. stitching, binding, weaving, piecing) and the overarching concept of mending. I am interested in how precise application of fiber metaphors may heighten our understanding of both peace-building and of fractures in the foundations for social justice. Tattering might be inherent. It is part of the wear and tear – some necessary, some not so necessary. But we seem to fall short on the art of mending.

I am deeply interested in the profundity of listening and of silence – of listening to the conversation between materials, thoughts and processes and of experiencing the rich silence of open space. I investigate ‘making’ as a form of contemplative action – as a tool for illuminating implicit knowledge of our potential for compassion and our proclivities for grief, confusion and complicity with structural and personal violence.”

Departire – Site specific installation at Ueno Town Art Museum, formerly Sakamoto Elementary School, for Threshold: Sustainable Art Project, Ueno/Tokyo, Japan, 2009. A response to Tokyo’s changing age demographics that leave elementary schools vacant and shift cultural mores. Pieced from over 50 nagajugan, mostly of vintage silk from obsolete Japanese textile mills, handsewn by students and volunteers in workshop settings.

Circumspect – Created in response to the US invasion on Iraq. The Jones House, Boone, NC. Materials: Wall Street Journal and NY Times, stained; tapestries of black walnut dyed silk, kozo and book binders thread; typewriter erasure ribbons, post post mortem surgical needles. Chronicles deaths of the “coalition forces”. The names of those who died between the March 21st invasion and April 1, 2004 (the showʼs opening) were deleted from the ribbons as they silently vanished from our lives.

While we find no shortage of political art in general, and specifically in the fiber and textile world, I find Mary’s approach to be unique. Instead of speculating the problem, it focuses on a solution, forcing us to think about what comes next.

Looking at her work, even through image, does invoke the feeling of silence. It makes me stop — at first at it’s beauty, and after reading her Artist Statement — to contemplate my own ability to pay attention to relationships between people, materials, concepts, places. Our ability, as humans, to withstand pain and hardship (including the ways we provoke it) and then our ability to focus on how to fix it. What new solutions can we come up with, and what can we learn from older ideas?

Unnatural Acts – Prickly pear fiber, silver solder, wire. 2003 Addresses the unnaturalness of imposed boundaries and forced militarism.

Deluge – Created in collaboration with Christopher Curtin for The Netshed at Alderbrook Station, Astoria, OR, 2010. Once the site of a thriving, albeit contested, salmon fishing industry, the Netshed – where fishermen would repair their gillnets – is an historical structure that serves as an icon for the interplay of migration, economy, ecology, dispossession and reclamation. Using hand-dyed cloth, the metaphor of water and reclaimed gillnets – the material that originally necessitated the site – we sought to re-engage the building’s history as a site of restoration and repair, creating a poetic context in which viewers might dream new possibilities for dialogue and negotiation. Gillnets provided by the Columbia River Fisherman’s Protective Union’s gillnet recycling project. Photo credit: http://www.donfrankphotography.com

I cannot wait to see Teem installed in our space. Other programming through March and April will be yoga and mediation, shibori, and Abigail Doan’s Earth Day workshop.

Hope to see you next Friday, March 11 for the Opening from 8-11PM! The show will be up through April. And you can check out the video of “Deluge” to get an idea of what will be up here.

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