They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but the same can be stated about a needle especially if it is used by the capable hands of the contemporary artists converging every year in a unique exhibition - "Stitch Fetish".
The fourth edition of the event is opening tomorrow at Los Angeles' Hive Gallery and promises to be provokingly intriguing. As usual curator Ellen Schinderman has put together a line up that will take visitors on a tour of the most radical trends for what regards the art of stitching and beyond. The 42 international artists featured in this year's edition employ indeed the most disparate techniques around, from embroidery and cross-stitching to recycled textiles.
"Stitch Fetish" features both miniature and large installations, some of the pieces show how portraits can be reinterpreted in modern ways, others are more conceptual, quite a few of them hide allegories or reference modern pop symbols. A few pieces reveal unspoken thoughts and prohibited memories, or present psychological and physical landscapes, personal experiences and collective sexual fears. Some will make you smile, others will make you to think, all of them will prompt you to reach out and touch the materials employed for some of these compositions.
Visitors will be mesmerised by the extremely realistic 3D Retex sculptures by Jess de Wahls; they will try and decode the secret messages tracing the contours of Schinderman's text ladies, or will scracth their heads and wonder what happened to the characters before and after they were portrayed in Michelle Kingdom's disquieting vignettes.
Among the other designers featured in the event there is also Heather Marie Scholl, a brave artist who is not afraid of tackling themes such as feminism, domestic violence and sexual abuses in her art. Scholl introduces us in this post to the exhibition and to her new work. Looks like the needle is a great humble tool ideal to break conventions and traditions and tackle in a radical way complex issues from our troubled times.
How did you get involved in "Stitch Fetish" and what it was like when you took part in it last year?
Heather Marie Scholl: In 2014 the curator Ellen Schinderman, reached out to me to participate in the 2015 show. It was a great opportunity to make new work with a specific show in mind. I had not created work in this way before, but having these guides of focusing on sexuality pushed me in a new way.
All the pieces featured in this event are extremely interesting, for both themes and techniques: in your opinion, what makes Stitch Fetish really exciting?
Heather Marie Scholl: I love that there is such diversity in how artists address the theme of sexuality and of fiber art. Each time it surprises me to see what a huge range of work there is. Although I have not been able to attend the openings in person, through the online community created for the artists I have been able to meet and become familiar with new artists.
Which artists did you particularly enjoy in the previous edition of the event?
Heather Marie Scholl: I absolutely fell in love with Michelle Kingdom's work last year. She has a way of story telling through embroidery that is profound. I also got connected with Annette Heully, although I didn't really get to know her as an artist until she participated in the show I curated last December, I am so thankful that we were made aware of each other through the show. She does strange and moving work in many techniques.
How many pieces will you showcase at "Stitch Fetish 4" and what themes will you be tackling?
Heather Marie Scholl: I will have 2 new pieces in the show. They deal with themes of belonging and love. This year has been my first real experience understanding what love can actually be like. So it felt appropriate that "Stitch Fetish" should be the first place where I can explore love as a topic in my art.
Can you tell us more about your work and your practice at the moment – what kind of pieces are you developing and which issues have you been researching?
Heather Marie Scholl: I continue to work on my series of surreal embroidered self portraits that explore my self and my family, while touching on common emotions. I will be teaching a class soon that bridges the how to's of embroidery and exploring family histories. I'm also planning to do a solo show of all the self portraits I have created to date later on this year. Alongside that, I have established the research and development for what will be my next large scale project amd possibly a topic that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The topic is "whitework": using the embroidery tradition of white thread on white fabric I am exploring ideas of whiteness - racially speaking. I'm studying how it was developed and how it was maintained, with a particular eye to white women's role in this process. The images will harken back to religious iconography to remind us of the invisible belief system we have created around race. Each piece will tell a story of a different phase of development and a different element to white supremacy. The pieces are more labor intensive than any singular piece I have done in the past, so I will be taking my time to make sure the techniques and messages are said with intention.
What inspires you nowadays? Do you ever take inspiration for example from the news?
Heather Marie Scholl: Life inspires me. I absolutely take inspiration from the news. One could say "whitework" is related to news stories, though I personally see it as the pull between an ignored history and a mostly ignored present of white supremacy and institutionalized racism. Inspiration can be everywhere and it depends on my mood and what project I have in mind what I take from where. I also continue to be inspired by clothing, modern and historical, while being deeply affected by and inspired by emotions.
Are you planning any exhibition in Europe for this year?
Heather Marie Scholl: At the moment I have no shows scheduled for Europe, though it continues to be an ambition of mine.
What are your plans for this year?
Heather Marie Scholl: Build a teaching practice alongside my art practice. In the meantime I want to keep on exploring the world of curating. I curated my first show, "Comedy & Tragedy" at The Experiment Comedy Gallery in Brooklyn in December 2015, and had a wonderful experience with it. I want to continue building my body of work and sharing it when I can. I am excited to see what this year holds in regards to my art practices as I have established interesting bodies of work and stronger networks.
"Stitch Fetish 4" is at the Hive Gallery, 729 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014, from tomorrow until 27th February 2015. Featuring: Adipocere, Mark Bieraugel, Ashley V Blalock, Olisa Corcoran, Amy Dame, Jess De Wahls, Spike Dennis, Nicole Filiatrault, Giddy Girlie, Peg Grady, Erika Hagberg, Becca Hammond, AshFord Harrison, Nano Hernandez, Annette Heully, Sally Hewett, Bascom Hogue, Josephine Huang, Alexander Kain, Billy Kheel, Michelle Kingdom, Barbara Bryn Klare, Katharine Lawrie, Jenny Lee, Rebecca Levi, Robin Mcgeough, Mackenzie Mollo, Matthew Monthei, Carie Musick, Oh Sew Nerdy, Shove Mink aka Croshame, Stephanie Pasa, Miel Rose, Julie Sarloutte, Ellen Schinderman, Heather Marie Scholl, Pete Seäzle, Meghan Willis, Jessika Wood, Wu Stitch, María Lucía Varona, Ben Youdan.
Image credits for this post
Images 3 to 7 in this post courtesy and by Heather Marie Scholl.
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