Tapestry Topics Feature Article
A Quarterly Review of Tapestry Art Today

page 10
Summer 2004, Vol 30 No 2


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      We do spend time together fully dressed, but our flights of fancy are magic. It is easy, in this puritanical culture, to forget the bliss of just being, playing, trusting, delighting in ourselves.  I count myself lucky to be able occasionally, to tap into that simple pleasure.  Sometimes these moments lead to tapestries, sometimes not, but they always move beyond mere posing to generate energy and delight. As an artist and tapestry weaver, these delicious moments must fuel solitary stretches of drawing and erasing, weaving and thinking and reweaving.

      A few years ago the US Postal Service produced some Frida Kahlo stamps that included a quote:  “I draw myself because I am often alone and I am the person that I know best.” Besides that my art history lessons come from postage stamps, it is worth noting that I, too, am often alone. The process of drawing myself has allowed me to become the person that I know best.  It is also good practice.

      And the more I draw my butt, the more beautiful it becomes.  Really. I look at my backside.  At first glance I find dozens of mean things to say to myself about its shape, texture and inability to defy the laws of gravity. It can keep me occupied for quite some time.  Eventually, I find that my pencil has begin to trace a few curves onto the paper.   I have worked on numerous self-portraits, but it is not my face that captures my attention.  I continue to draw my shoulders and arms, my butt, hands, feet, calves, even hair. I am endlessly curious about the relationship between these somehow socially separated entities.   Collectively, through posture, position and muscle tension they create mood or identity.

      Then it seems that “this” curve might be far more interesting if it went in more and “that” one out.  I become absorbed by these shapes that are me and yet not me. There is a figure on the paper and it is someone that I know intimately and yet not at all. Who is this person who has such power in her forearm muscles, determination in her elbow, my mother’s hands and my Grandmother’s thighs?  She is a story in herself and I want to know what happens in the next chapter.

      Happily, drawing is only part of the story of tapestry making. Beyond the world of graphite on paper there is the delicious, enticing process of turning lines into shapes, negative space into positive, and shades of gray into wild, wonderful color.

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Sarah Swett, Three of Spinsters, 60" x 48", 1998
Sarah Swett, Back to Front, 36" x 18" x 8", 2000
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