Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview with "Fiber Focus 2011" artist David Brackett

by Janna Añonuevo Langholz

Art Saint Louis Fall 2011 volunteer Janna Añonuevo Langholz spent some of her time at Art Saint Louis interviewing several of the artists featured in our recent “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. 

Her final interview is with David Brackett, a weaver & tapestry artist based in Lawrence, Kansas where he works as Associate Professor of Textiles in the School of Art at University of Kansas. David earned his MFA in textiles, with honors, from the University of Kansas (1990). He attended the University of Michigan (1979-1985) and studied weaving, fabric design and art history and he also holds a Bachelor in Zoology from University of Michigan (1977). David’s award-winning work has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the U.S. and Japan. In addition to two of his pieces being juried by Lia Cook for this year’s “Fiber Focus 2011” at Art Saint Louis, David’s work was previously exhibited at ASL in “Fiber Focus 2005” and “New Works/Nine States” (2006).

David Brackett. Left Bend, Right Hook. 2009. Cotton, Mill-Woven Original Jacquard Designs, Pieced, Machine Stitched, 62”x71”.     


Janna: I read that before you began working with textiles, you received a bachelor’s degree in zoology. How did you make the transition from science to art and how does your background influence your work?
David: I took art courses while earning my bachelor’s degree. I began in Ceramics and worked for the Michigan Artrain after college, where I demonstrated pottery production to school groups around the state. I returned to school later and took a course in Weaving and Fabric Design. After working with dyes, I abandoned my ceramics studio, bought a loom, and returned to school – eventually earning my master’s degree in Textiles.

Janna: When did you begin working with Jacquard weaving?
David: I began teaching at University of Kansas in 2001. We had access to JaqCAD Master, a software package that allows for digital images to be converted into weave structures for jacquard looms. I had training for this software in North Carolina and have had designs woven at several mills over the last ten years.

Janna: Where do you find your imagery?
David: The images for the jacquard designs are from digital images that I have photographed. Some are images from my travels through Europe, many others are from nature hikes. My research focuses on patterns found in nature that are created with an element of chance. This type of pattern has a characteristic look, but does not repeat in a strict geometric way. These patterns are all around us—some examples: tree bark, stripes on animals, trees, leaves after they have fallen, driftwood piling up at water’s edge, etc.

Janna: There almost appears to be an eye peering out over the landscape of your piece, Left Bend Right Hook, currently being displayed at Art Saint Louis. Could you tell me more about this piece and is that someone looking at us?

David: This piece combines two main images. The landscape is a photo taken in Ireland. The eye is actually an entire portrait. If you look closely, you can see the ear, and part of the nose, chin and neck. There is also fabric made from a photo of the Eiffel Tower. My work combines images from my life and juxtaposes them in a similar way to the way our memories are stored. Some are prominent, some are hard to decipher, some come together to create new associations.

David Brackett, On a Clear Day. 2009, Cotton, Mill-Woven Original Jacquard Designs, Hand Woven, Painted & Supplemental Warps, Pieced, Machine Stitched, 72”x69”.

Janna: Could you also tell me more about your other piece on display, On a Clear Day?
David: As with much of my work, this piece pieces together many different images in a way that creates areas with implied depth along with areas that bring the viewer back to the physical surface. The distant landscape is seen through windows, but the viewer is prevented from feeling a part of this landscape. This is a reference to unfulfilled dreams and barriers outside of our control. The upper right portion of the work includes fabric that was created through a collage of photos of a human torso—chest, back, elbows, etc. I feel that this strange “landscape” adds a human presence in a very indirect way.

Janna: In your artist statement you wrote, “Our lives are filled with chance occurrences that can alter the paths we take and create.” How have chance occurrences shaped your work?
David: My work incorporates many disparate images, each of which has meaning to me. I use techniques that inherently allow for unpredictability, particularly in the hand-dyed and hand-woven cloth. Through my studies of chance, chaos theory, and fractals, I have discovered that patterns that are created through these processes combine in a more seamless fashion than with strict geometry. The patterns found in nature show a visible record of these processes, but society, biology, politics, economic systems, and our personal interactions are also subject to these laws. Though there are infinite possible pathways for disorder, nature only uses a few.

Janna: Are there other artists who have inspired you?
David: There are many artists that I find interesting, but my inspiration comes more from science, and I have found that scientists really respond to my work. One geologist told me that he liked my work because it was an “illustration of mathematics.”  One artist that I feel is aesthetically closest to my work is Clare Verstegen. I have spoken to Clare and know that the concepts behind her work are very different, but I have felt a connection to her work for many years.

Janna: What is the best aspect of working with textiles?
David: I work with textiles for many reasons. Woven fabric has a reference to time in the way it is produced. The most frequently asked question that I get is “how long did it take to make your work.”  This is important to me since my work is about a process and evolution. I like to think that my pieces feel like one moment in an ever-changing landscape. Textiles also them themselves to being cut and sewn back together. During the process of piecing, I am frequently surprised by the combinations and how seamlessly some designs fit together. I pin all the pieces to the wall before the final work is sewn together. Finally, I like textiles because they are inherently about pattern and grid structure. This, for me, connects form and content in a very fundamental way.

"Fiber Focus 2011" was presented at Art Saint Louis September 6 through October 13, 2011. The exhibit is now closed. Our next two shows, “Art St. Louis XXVII, The Exhibition” and “Artists’ Day at Circus Flora 2011” open October 29 and run through December 30, 2011. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO 63101 (downtown on Washington between 6th & Broadway). Gallery is free & open to the public Monday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Gallery closed through October 29.


Janna Añonuevo Langholz was a Fall 2011 volunteer at Art Saint Louis helping with the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition. A St. Louis native, she recently moved back to the city after graduating with a BFA in Fibers at Truman State University this year. After taking some time off to travel and work on her portfolio, Janna plans on attending graduate school and continuing her studies in fibers and mixed media.

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