I am a creative dabbler in fibre and fine arts. As a textile enthusiast, I have experimented in various fibre crafts over the past decade, including spinning, knitting, felting, sewing, quilting, and weaving. Getting my hands into something concrete has been a key way for me to balance the heady world of academia, which was my life for many years. Recently, I have also returned to my creative roots in the fine arts, exploring the relationship between the natural and human world, as well as the complexities of embodiment, through acrylic and mixed media.
In my fibre and fine arts, I unite self-expression with social and environmental advocacy, focusing on beauty (art for its own sake) and purpose (art for the sake of a cause). In my creative process, I often find myself asking: What can art do in the world? Does it have ethical as well as aesthetic capacity? How can artists stimulate awareness, deeper thought, and positive action without losing creative integrity or sliding into sloganism?
I have long been interested in this relationship between ethics and aesthetics. Trained and employed as an English professor, I specialized in autobiography studies and taught ethics and social justice courses alongside literature and writing. A few years ago, I had to step down from my academic post due to a debilitating chronic illness. Since then, I have used my limited energy to continue exploring the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, but in a concrete way – at an easel and sewing machine – rather than in a philosophical or literary one.
My most recent art series, “Witnessing Chronic Illness” focuses on the difficulty of living with a complex and largely invisible illness, as I navigate medical systems and social stigmas and try to communicate the vulnerability, loss, anger, and grief that are part of living with an anomalous and disabled body. As I’ve explored the questions—“How do I communicate this?” and “How do I share this experience with others?”—I’ve moved through a range of styles from symbolic realism to abstract expressionism to find visual images that may help to make sense of things. Distinct lines and shapes have played a key role in many of the paintings as I’ve sought to express the loss of order and attempts to “re-order” my sense of identity. While some of the paintings have been methodically planned to express one particular aspect of my illness, other paintings focus entirely on process and experiment, letting the body “speak” as it were, with no preplanned vision in mind.
Beyond this particular series, nature and the natural environment have been favourite subjects in my work. Many of my paintings and mixed media pieces aim to contrast the beauty and fragility of nature with its austerity or harshness, often juxtaposing detailed elements with simplified lines and geometric shapes. While not overtly touting environmental care and sustainability, much of this work draws on the beauty of the natural world (to be protected) or its severity (to be respected).
In my fibre arts, my interest in environmental sustainability and ethical practice takes the foreground. After researching the excessive environmental waste produced by fast fashion as well as unethical growing, sourcing, and garment-making practices, I changed the way I approached fibre and fabric. I made the conscious decision to begin sewing and knitting sustainable fashion, to choose ethically-sourced fibres and fabrics, to reduce plastic waste with reusable hand-made items, and to make many of my own household wares and décor. I aim to combine appealing aesthetic designs with functionality and sustainability in whichever craft I am currently dabbling!