April 18, 2008

Skunk Cabbage and Possum, and vintage textiles

When I started work on "Skunk Cabbage and Possum", I was faced with an unusual design challenge. I wanted to feature cyanotype prints from a possum skull found on an early spring walk, along with the image of a skunk cabbage leaf. For me they represented the renewal of life--this particular possum was no more, but there would be new possums, and new plants, in the woods this summer, and for many years to come. (There is always an bit of underlying environmental anxiety in my work--I sincerely hope that climate change and pollution do not alter this expectation.)

But a lot of people have an automatic reaction to skull imagery that summons up darker connotations I was not looking to invoke. So I wanted to make an conscious effort to make this work beautiful and cheerful. I looked through my collection and found this dresser scarf with wonderful embroidered flowers and leaves. There were some small holes in the center, but I could work around that, and it was otherwise in excellent condition.

I painted the linen, being careful to keep the paint away from the embroidery threads, for the most part. I cut it up and reassembled it, taking out the damaged bits and reorienting it so it suggested a gentle hillside. I added machine stitching, and added hand beadwork to further accentuate the flowers.

Here's the full view of "Skunk Cabbage and Possum" and you can see more at my website:

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