Chapter 2: Weaving of Words (part 2)
As I noted in my last entry, words have always been important to me. I have tried a wide variety of art mediums, yet keep finding myself drawn to those that allow words to be a key part of my expression. Indeed, it was a desire to use words with fabric that drew me to my first printmaking course in January 2008. At that time, I wanted to print words on fabric that could then be made into clothes. Of course, it was not that simple, as it took me more than one course in printmaking to master the art of properly coating a screen and burning an image onto that screen (more on this in an upcoming blog entry).
Even when I was engaged with ceramics (much of the 1990s), I made a lot of pieces with words. Some of these still hang on my garden shed (“The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth. One is nearer God’s heart in a garden, than anywhere else on earth.” – part of a poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney).
In the early 1990s, while on a silent retreat, I was introduced to what I characterize as meditative collage. Collage based on silence, going inward, and using cut objects from magazines to represent where one is in their personal journey. Many collages consist of an array of images brought together. While I have some collages in my collection that consist solely of images, the vast array of my collages contain words as integral parts of the composition.
In my last entry, I wrote about my college creative writing instructor, the one who tried to replace my creativity with that of another. As I write about my use of words with collage, I envision him suggesting that I not use words, instead allowing for images alone to allow for greater interpretation. I am realizing the tremendous amount of power I ceded to that instructor, as I recognize him as my chief inner critic, the voice in me that tells me that whatever I do, I am not doing it well.
Yet, my collages with words are powerful compositions and have aided me through some very dark passages of my own journey. Words are guideposts for me. A single word can alter the moment. Words, at times, are more powerful than images, for images might not be shared experiences. Images might be more abstract at times, while words can be more definitive.
I believe that words are one of the gifts with which I was blessed. I am an articulate speaker and writer. More importantly, perhaps, I have learned that I can use words to bridge divides.
My first art piece that combined printmaking with words is “Remind Me,” and consists of sixteen strips of fabric, interwoven, each printed with one word (see image above). These words are joy, challenges, hope, community, believe, forgiveness, loss, wonder, dream, balance, imagine, love, kindness, peace, trust and blessings. Years earlier, I had been inspired by a similar piece done with paper, a composition that drew me inward and helped me see the complexity and, indeed, the simplicity of life. It was only after I took my first printmaking course that I had the “aha” moment when I knew that what I longed to do was not print fabric for clothing, but print words for hanging and reflecting. Thus developed my line of meditative wall hangings.
Another early way in which I wove words into my printmaking art was with a series of wall hangings titled “Holding Ourselves in Community.” These pieces use one word as the foundation and layer fabric in such a way that multiple strips of fabric with the same word creat the illusion of a container. The “container” is then filled with strips of fabric containing other words. The end result, to me, looks like a basket made of one word that contained multiple other words, as though they were skeins of yard. The first of these was centered on forgiveness (see image above), followed by courage, kindness, faith, truth and mercy. The words within these containers are many of the same words found in “Remind Me,” with the addition of others, such as promise, grace, grief, gratitude, mystery, conviction, faith, wonder, breathe, courage, heart, solitude and dream. Simple words, but words that resonate with each one of us.
The last wall hanging I discuss here is “Walking Meditation” (see image above). here I used the word strips to create the image of a pathway. Moving from the bottom of the image, one begins with solitude and moves through dare, heart, promise, desire, friendship, breathe, grace, passion, conviction, faith, before ending at mystery. Each stepping stone represents a small part of the human condition and each of us must walk our own path, meeting up with these things in our own time and place.
Words, then, are powerful tools. Tools that, for me, reflect part of the human condition and give me a way to tap into life’s questions.