Fabric Artist’s Statement 2013: Wiskirchen

Cloth metaphors echo from many parts of the world, both today and in the past.  Social scientists and laypersons regularly describe society as fabric, woven or knit together.  Cloth as a metaphor for society, thread for social relations, express more than connectedness, however.  The softness and ultimate fragility of these materials capture the vulnerability of humans, whose every relationship is transient.

-Annette B. Weiner and Jane Schneider, Cloth and Human Experience, 1989

 

 

Artist’s Statement by Kelsey Wiskerchen

I am driven to engage in work done with others and which also has a tradition of bringing communities together.  In communities worldwide, women have found camaraderie and empowerment through the creation of textiles.  When I weave and sew, I become aware of my connection to people across cultures and to those who create textiles as an act of survival.  The repetitive nature of these processes allows me to reflect on time spent with others.  The work in this exhibition focuses on the role weaving has in contemporary societies: sharing stories, continuing tradition, and creating new opportunities for women.

When I was seven, my grandmother taught me how to embroider images onto cloth.  For practice, she drew on fabric with pencil and I stitched over her lines.  Around the same time, my mother taught me how to use her sewing machine.  When I was ready for different thread, she wound a new bobbin and re-threaded the machine for me because it was too complicated to remember.  The time these women spent teaching me to sew was focused not only on the physical task but was also a time for sharing stories.

Spending time with women in this way has become a parallel practice to my studio work.  During the past few years, I have had the opportunity to engage with women creating textiles in many places.  I wove with women at the Foundation for Senior Living in Tempe, Arizona, and as they worked, the women exchanged stories of their lives.  Their memories felt precious to me and are what first compelled me to document women’s stories.  Through this process, I realized that women everywhere have memories to preserve.  I spent time in Bolivia with Projecto Artesania Zona Andina (PAZA), a women’s weaving cooperative, and also with the Mapusha Weaving Cooperative in South Africa.  I have been deeply affected by the kindness of these women, their willingness to share time and stories, and their dedication to supporting their families through craft.  Women from my hometown of Kirksville, Missouri have written and shared memories of their own mothers, grandmothers, teachers, and other influential women in their lives.  Despite differences in location, language, and ways of working, the women who have shared with me all have much in common.  These women and stories are represented by this body of work.

Thread is a symbol of duality— representative of individual fragility and strength when woven into cloth.  In this work, it is a unifying factor serving as connection between the many women represented.  While each geography holds particularities, the creation of cloth is universal.  Through the materiality of thread and physical dimension of the stitched line, I hope to bring a sense of both the individual and the collective to this space.  The resulting tactile object documents a story that only existed in conversation and memory.  Transparency and layering symbolize the relationship that time and distance have on the memory of shared experience.

We are all dependent upon one another and on the world in which we live.  As time passes, some details fade from memory.  In this way, true stories are fundamentally delicate.  They become more fragile and more precious with time.  There is poetry in the truth of sharing conversation, laughter, and time with others.  The power of cooperative efforts is a solution to many of today’s global problems.  My purpose is to examine the experiences women share: stories, skills, and traditions passed on to younger generations.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *