I create invented controllable worlds that allude to the apparent comforts of home, to reveal its contradictions, pathos, and bewildering humor. Compulsive process and obsessive repetition are part of what makes me tick. I am fascinated by how things are made and how taking them apart reveals hidden worlds and the ingenuity of the human imagination.
In my current project, Wearing, I unravel the braided rugs common in old houses, and make them into what they may have been, to acknowledge the labor of anonymous women makers through time. Braided rugs were predominately made by working class women from moth-eaten coats, worn blankets and clothing; their wear reveals the imprint of humanity going about their daily lives. I unbraid each rug, then press and sew the strips into cloth. The unbraiding reveals a myriad hidden patterns and exuberant hues. Lines of dotted holes indicate the years of tread marks eroding the fabric. Leopard-like spots of dirt pressed into the exposed parts of the braids reveal human movement through time. The process of making these is something like an excavation, uncovering what the rugs hide in between their braids, and admiring the craft and labor of each anonymous maker. I keep part of the original rug attached to the object, to allude to the cyclical nature of materials and shifting boundaries of the objects. Often I make pieces with specific women in mind, from historic to contemporary, and have contemporary artists model the pieces, to connect and listen to voices past and present — fragile and strong, loud, seething and quiet; no longer invisible.
In disassembling the rugs I gather clues about each maker. I wonder who the rugs once belonged to, what the lives of the people who used and made them were like, as they gathered with others and conversed and made work together or in solitude. Their work is an archive of lives lived. I think of these Wearing works as memorial sculptures to their anonymous makers. Each rug is its own complex universe that slowly reveals varieties of personalities, physical attributes and even specific places. I think of my process as a collaboration with each maker and I am consistently fascinated and surprised as our “conversation” unfolds. Often I combine the rugs with furnishings, wallpaper and objects to create immersive tableaux that acknowledge home decoration as a form of installation art.