Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interview with "Fiber Focus 2011" artist Teresa Paschke

by Janna Añonuevo Langholz

Teresa Paschke. A.K. 2011 Printed Textiles: Digital Photography, Wide-Format Ink Jet Printing on Cotton Canvas, Hand-Embroidery, 31”x48”x1”.

Art Saint Louis Fall 2011 volunteer Janna Añonuevo Langholz has been interviewing some of the artists featured in our current “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition.

Janna’s fourth interview is with Teresa Paschke, Associate Professor of art at Iowa State University in Ames, IA. Her work has been exhibited nationally and has received numerous awards, including Second Place for her piece A.K. in the “Fiber Focus 2011” exhibition at Art St. Louis (Teresa has two pieces in the exhibit). Previously, Teresa’s work has been shown at ASL in “Fiber Focus 1997,” “Fiber Focus 2001,” and “Fiber Focus 2003.”


Janna: How has your work changed over time?
Teresa: Over the years, my artwork has changed in some ways and stayed the same in others. Certainly the use of technology has changed the way in which I work. At times, my entire studio is contained within my laptop and the digital printing process has shortened the time it takes to produce a printed textile. The digital process allows me to create more complex imagery and I can print larger images with relative ease. At the same time, I’ve increased the amount of embroidery in each piece, which slows down the process considerably.

Identity and place have been constant themes within my artwork since graduate school.

Janna: The concept of home is strong is many of your pieces. What defines “home” and where is it?
Teresa: For me, home will always be the place of my birth, which is Minneapolis, Minnesota. However, I’ve made my home in many places that include Kansas, Ohio, and currently, Iowa. Each place leaves an impression even if it’s merely as a contrast to someplace I’d rather be and those impressions inevitably show up in my artwork. The artwork in Fiber Focus 2011 was created after a one-month visit to the Czech Republic. For those four weeks, Prague was my home and that is certainly reflected in the artwork you see in the Fiber Focus exhibition.

Janna: You combine a traditionally domestic art such as embroidery with street culture references such as graffiti. How does this juxtaposition shift perceptions about women’s work inside the home?
Teresa: I think both art forms are underappreciated. But even more than that, I see a strong correlation between the artists themselves. The image of the urban graffiti artist may seem in stark contrast to the refined young woman who embroiders linens and samplers, but the more I work with these kinds of images, I realize how much they really have in common. For one thing, there is a certain amount of anonymity among both graffiti artists and these young women. Both are generally 8-18 years old, and they learn through teachers or mentors rather than family members. Graffiti artists are often marginalized members of society and their artwork helps to give them a voice; a presence, and allows them to be visible members of society. The young women who created schoolgirl samplers were also marginalized within their communities—they would grow up to become the property of their husbands (and if they didn’t marry, they remained the property of their fathers); as women, they wouldn’t own property themselves, and they weren’t allowed to vote. Samplers undoubtedly gave these girls some sense of ownership whether because of the education they received during their creation or because what was created served as an historical record of the their lives.

Janna: Could you tell me more about the specific piece that you were awarded second place for in the "Fiber Focus 2011" exhibition at Art Saint Louis, A.K.? What do the initials stand for?
Teresa: The act of marking one’s belongings is familiar to all of us. Historically, women marked garments and household linens for their bridle trousseau with embroidered monograms. Today, historians study embroidered samplers created centuries ago by young women to help us better understand our past. The designs stitched onto them often provide a rich record (oftentimes the only record) of the lives these girls lived; their names and dates of birth; their family tree; the town in which they lived, and sometimes the name of their teacher. Like graffiti artists who mark territory or leave behind a very public record of their activities, A.K. was an attempt to suggest a relationship between these two forms of record-keeping—whether it’s in the form of a “tag” or a monogram—specifically the desire that all of us has to leave our “mark” on something we feel is a part of us. These specific initials, A.K., were taken from a book of historical Czech embroidery patterns and monograms.

Teresa Paschke. Hip-Hop Sampler. 2011. Printed Textiles: Digital Photography, Wide-Format Ink Jet Printing on Linen, Hand-Embroidery, Mounted on Stretched Canvas, 28”x24”x1”.

Janna: Why is the practice of traditional techniques important in addition to combining them with new technology?
Teresa: New technology is exciting and it’s always fun to learn new things. And, because I teach at a university I have the resources that allow me to work with technology, such as wide-format digital printing for textiles, that I wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise. Fortunately, there are a number of print-on-demand companies around the world that have made digital printing available to everyone. As an artist, having a connection to materials is essential, which is one of the reasons why it’s important for me to include hand-printing and hand-stitching in my artwork. Hand-stitching in particular has been considered “women’s work” throughout history and I truly feel a kinship with women from past centuries who have used it to create beautiful textiles for their homes and families. But beyond that, I think there is an innate desire that each of us has to use our hands to produce things that are meaningful. The handwork that I do on each piece is where I personally find the most joy.

Janna: How do you describe your working process?
Teresa: To create my artwork, I manipulate my own photographs using off-the-shelf digital imaging software. Compositions are printed onto cotton canvas using a wide-format ink jet printer
(Mimaki Tx2 or Epson 9800) followed by hand-printing and/or hand-stitching.

Janna: Who are some other artists whose work you enjoy and appreciate?
Teresa: I spend a lot of time looking at schoolgirl embroideries because they’re beautiful and I’m humbled that such young hands could stitch so much better than I can. I’m often drawn to artwork that is technically and skillfully precise and so I’ve always been a big fan of Clare Verstegen’s work. She’s the best screen-printer I know. Dorothy Caldwell’s artwork also inspires me a great deal. I’ll be traveling to China in November and then again in April of next year, so lately I’ve been looking at both contemporary and historical Chinese textiles.

Janna: Have you ever put graffiti on an actual wall?
Teresa: I admit that I have. When I was eleven or twelve, my friends and I were caught by the police writing on the back of a 7/11 store near my house. The officer loaded our bikes into the trunk of his squad car and dropped each of us off at our homes. My mother was so embarrassed that she immediately put me to work ironing the laundry she had just finished. I also had to go back to the store the following week to remove the graffiti.

"Fiber Focus 2011" remains on view at Art Saint Louis through October 13, 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.

Janna Añonuevo Langholz is 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 continue her studies in fibers and mixed media.

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