These lightweight textiles are hung to form various configurations of multiple fabric planes, which are variously dyed, cut, pieced, and embellished. Each piece explores the physical potential of suspension and the possibilities of layering. Suspension from multiple points creates a fluid drape in the fabric that hints at its gravitational pull, but because the fabric is so lightweight, suspension also subjects the work to air currents. The use of transparent and limited hues within each piece, and the creation of negative spaces between and within layers, enhances the work’s fragility. The substance and physicality of fabric thus arranged conveys multiplicity, temporality and complexity. This work is meant to express the spaces between, or the spaces just before, or just after, things - spaces that we inhabit temporarily. Scaled to the space a body inhabits, this work engages the viewer both visually and viscerally, encouraging a haptic visual experience in which
the viewer imagines, recognizes, or remembers the feeling of these textural elements.
Various processes contribute to the somatic history of the fabric and its multiple transformations; these pieces hold not only the results of the labor that made them, but the memory of that labor as well. As sensuous materials suspended in space, casting shadows on the walls and floors, they confront the viewer differently from different perspectives as they subtly oscillate in response to the atmosphere, becoming, ultimately, communicative memories, that are completed when the viewer receives them.
Although this work has fixed edges, it also functions in relationship to what is absent - between, around, or behind these edges. By creating line as well as openings, and by delineating positive and negative space, the edges frame information – or demarcate the lack of information - caught within, behind or beyond the edge. Composers of music also point to the “substance” of nothingness: when a silence is created between sounds, the silence has profound significance, partly because it resonates with the memory, or the shadow, of sound.
These textiles consider how the residue of the past - whether expressed through layers that are selectively visible and hidden, through colors that are carefully created or resisted, through embellishments that enhance formal elements, or through objects that are cast off from the process of making the textile - is intrinsic to any renewal. The gossamer layers of experience, depending upon our perceptual vantage point, are transient, creating a mutable, translucent skin that keeps quietly changing as we proceed forward in time.
I am interested in the ephemeral nature of beauty, the permanence of love, and the interplay between the two. By way of analogy, silk fabric is diaphanous and strong, delicate and sturdy; it survives multiple permutations and transformations, while retaining its fluidity and luminescence. Such contradictions, which function at both a material and a metaphorical level, fascinate me.
I primarily use the traditional techniques of Japanese shibori, a shape- and color-resist immersion dye process. Shibori embeds memory in fabric through color and form and echoes the way in which life experiences create multiple palimpsests as one proceeds forward in time, while continually registering the accumulations of the past.
Through layering and tying, my work creates variations in color that, coupled with the ethereality and translucency of silk, emphasize the interplay of shadow and light, and the remembrance of the heaviness of objects that have been removed from the fabric after dyeing. Suspended pieces are meant to engage the viewer by both their physical size and by their subtly shifting layers, as they respond to air currents created by movement around the piece.
About the Artist
Rebecca Cross teaches composition, literature and art at the university level. She has also sung professionally. Formally trained as a bel canto singer at the Oberlin Conservatory, she has performed contemporary art music in a range of venues. The worlds of music and books continue to fascinate and inform her visual art, which has become a central passion since she began in 1989 to make quilts.
Intrigued by how all art must traverse the imagined and the material, Cross believes that the imagined is what resides in our dreams, thoughts, and memories; the material helps us "voice" these. Dreaming her way into art work allows her to explore what is captivating, troubling, deeply beautiful, or mysterious – sometimes doing so while quite literally holding on by a thread.
Her first pregnancy inspired many of the ideas in her early art quilts, and she subsequently enlarged the scope of her investigations by uncovering the layers of meaning embedded in folktales, fairy tales, poetry and myths. These narratives provided a psychic residence for imagination during the making of work.
Recent forays into shibori tying, dyeing and shape-resist techniques, primarily in silk, coupled with nuno-felting with wool on silk, continue to develop reflections on and expressions of memory. Shibori and felting processes embed memory in color and form in fabric, often in collaged layers. These processes provide a rich metaphor for the ways in which life experiences create multiple palimpsests as one proceeds forward in time, while simultaneously spiraling back into memory..