I weave chenille stems into still lifes and landscapes, leveraging texture and dimensionality to create depth where the limited color palettes do not allow. Commonly known as pipe cleaners, these stems force me to rethink how color, light and shadow act as players on a stage. I build dramatic tableaux that fill the canvas with explosions of color, much like Fauvism at the turn of the century. I also remove the supporting cast entirely, using lines and shapes to construct familiar yet mysterious icons.
Symbols are shared secrets. As a teen, I would exchange letters written primarily in symbols with a friend down the street. The thrill of deciphering and composing the narratives was unforgettable. I am fascinated with the iconography of the Freemasons, whose distinct symbols still elude any easy definitions. Some of the symbols I use have existed in society for centuries, while others are modern objects encountered in my everyday life. I find comfort and recognition in the simplicity of individual icons; I create meaning and complexity by combining them into groups. When I step back from my work, it often appears pixelated. The stems rise off the canvas like pieces of code. I step closer, and the texture softens my gaze; the elements dissolve back into the greater story.
I have physical scars; scratches from the screens I work on, calluses from repeatedly twisting and molding wire, marks from pinching myself with pliers. My touch can be felt in every piece. The technique and the materials call on a long history of folk-art traditions. Woolies, produced by 19th century sailors on trips at sea, were made by stitching on wool and embellishing with found objects. In Victorian hair art, people used the hair of loved ones as a medium for crafting sentimental souvenirs. I also draw on crop art, in which seeds are placed to create glorious mosaics, resembling pointillist paintings. All of these express an innate need to create, using whatever tools are at hand. Everyday objects are transformed. The resulting work has intimacy and immediacy, a material connection to the maker’s soul. The chenille stems connect me to both history and emotion. I am not practicing a taught theory; I am conveying my experience and my vision in a medium and technique I created.