In 2004 I received my MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. However, I studied Japanese Shibori silk dyeing with Arturo Alonzo Sandoval at the University of Kentucky. In 1998 a friend had suggested that I learn to dye silk so I could make covers for the hand made books I read from when I was doing performance readings of my poetry. Four weeks after classes started my 26 year old son had a paralyzing accident. I remember that at that moment I had to make a decision. At first, I was going to quit school and take care of him. Then I realized, his condition was not going away. It was forever and we both had to learn to live an independent life. I stayed in school and placed my experiences in the intensive care waiting room into the silk I was dyeing. I had to simplify what I was to learn, there were so many colors, so many techniques. I made another decision to focus on one technique. One palette. I chose arashi shibori, a palette of shades, and created, not only silk covers for my books, but also wearable art for my performances.
The Shibori technique is based on manipulating fabric. The fabric resists the dye and creates a pattern. I always place at least three colors, or shades of one color of dye on the cloth. This creates movement and depth. The art created is complicated, simply. With my wearable art my intention is to create opportunities for you to interact with the art, to become the art and enhance your self-expression by transforming your experience into a dynamic “performative” artwork.
For me, art is an interactive life experience. Rather than react, which comes from the gut, I prefer to respond, which comes from the heart. When I live in that brief pause between reacting and responding, I am living a creative life. For instance, when working on a piece of fabric, if I spill some dye, rather than react, and toss the piece, I respond and consider how to work this new phenomenon into the finished art.
I began as a writer, writing the truth about my experiences, no matter how painful. As my children became teenagers, I became a visual artist. While much thought and contemplation goes into visualizing a piece of art, the actual tasks for completion are somewhat routine and can be completed in the midst of chaos; wrapping, dyeing, steaming, rinsing, ironing and then finishing the edges to create truly wearable art which is vividly layered and intrinsically contains the stories of my life.
In my memoir, The Garden Girls’ Letters and Journal, using a form of organic discussion, I created an interactive “performative” dialogue. My wearable art is my expression of the visual facet of this layered conversation. Because of the amount of energy involved in the creative process this energy is still present in the finished art and the wearer of my art is only moments away from my story.
Ultimately, my hope is that my art inspires you to ask questions. This is the first step to becoming an artist. What if . . . ? I’m not a big believer in talent. What produces creative results is desire and the willingness to take risks.
Currently I live in a cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. My inspiration comes from hiking in the woods and trying to figure out how to capture the colors I see. My truly wearable art, made from all natural fabrics, includes serenity shawls, goddess capes, bolero jackets, poetry vests and skirts, riding coats, caftans and dresses. What I love to do most is create a collection. To layer on various colors and textures of fabrics and designs. Each design has several pieces which have been torn and serged before sewing them together; a process through which I continue to recover memories in the 5/8 seam allowance I learned from my mother.
Fiber art and artist books have been exhibited at The Friedman Chapman Gallery in Louisville, KY, MS Rezny Gallery, The Singletary Center for the Arts, University of Kentucky, Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning and Artspace Gallery, Lexington, KY, and Claypool-Young Art Gallery, Morehead State University, KY.
Creative non-fiction essays and poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including: The American Voice, High Performance, The Sun, Now and Then, and Southern Exposure.
“The Garden Girls’ Letters and Journal,” my memoir, was published in 2006 by Wind Publications.