“Chasm,” a Textile Collage

The Concept

There are times in our lives that mark a clear break from everything that came before. A great chasm, like a crest that separates two chunks of land, it divides our lives into a clear “before” and “after,” changing us forever as it does. This chasm can be a quick event, like a devastating earthquake or an accident that shifts everything. It can also be a slower process, like a pandemic, or a war that irrecoverably alters everything we took for granted. It can be something in our private, individual lives, or a collective occurrence that affects many.

There have been many collective chasms in recent years: the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukrainian war, the earthquake in Turkey and some supreme court decisions, to name some. There have also been numerous private ones. I’m sure you or someone you know have had a recent chasm of your own…

For me, personally, the last three years have been one big chasm. When 2019 started, I had two living parents and three children living at home. I enjoyed traveling the world, and made colorful, happy art. By the end of 2022, I found myself an orphan, an almost-empty-nester with two kids in college, a global pandemic survivor. I’m more somber now, less naïve, and I worry greatly about our collective future and that of our planet. My art, too, has changed greatly.

The Process

Once again I had an idea that formed as a complete image in my mind. It required creating a fissure in a landscape, so I did some research. I looked at many photographs online, then drew an image on paper. Next, I dug through my stash and pulled out possible fabrics to audition. This part of my creative process makes keeping my sewing room tidy so very difficult… I selected pieces in rust, black and off white.  For the first time ever, I used freezer paper, which I ironed onto the back of my fabrics so that I could more easily cut the intricate shapes I needed. I’ve read about this technique long ago, but only tired it now. It really worked!

Creating the layers of the fissure took some trial and error, as well as many decisions.

A few hours later, I had a general composition.

This fissure was too flat, however. I wanted to create a three-dimensional illusion. This required darker tones for shaded areas on both banks. Finding just the right fabrics for that purpose was not easy. I have lots of fabrics in my stash, but when I need something very specific, I rarely find it…

So, I had to improvise.  I pulled out my acrylic paints, and painted swatches of the red fabric with a very thin layer of black acrylic, and some black fabric with white.

It worked perfectly.

Once again I posed for the camera. I digitally manipulated the image, played with its scale, and printed it onto fabric. All that was left was to sew the image onto the composition, add a shadow with an inktense pencil, and Chasm was done.

Chasm is 16″ x 20,” and is part of The State of Human series. When I look back at the entire series, this piece feels like a good ending.

Everyone behaves as if the pandemic is over. The Biden administration already announced that it will end the COVID-19 emergency declarations in May. Although I am sure there are still disease outbreaks in our future, as well as climate-related disasters and what not, this particular chapter in our lives feels like it’s over. I, for one, am ready to move on…

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