Many years ago I went to art camp. This camp was populated by a group of pretty sophisticated artists from all over the country. An NEA grant was given to the South Carolina Arts Commission to sponsor this camp I think, and it was the idea of Jayne Darke. The city of Rock Hill, South Carolina also sponsored the camp, and they were looking for unique industry to occupy some of their old textile mills downtown. Jayne knew that most artists work speculatively, so she figured, why not pay the travel for these people to come for a week and collaborate?
This is how, many years later, I came to use waste as the medium for my work. In fact, at camp was the first time I ever heard the term “dumpster diving” from a really excellent one hailing from Philly.
Being an artist, I have never had much money, and using what materials I could afford was the way I made art. “Dumpster diving” described what I did, but I did not honor it yet. For me, it was a dirty secret. Being in textiles, people gave me stuff from the backs of their closets, and to buy floss was very cheap when I had to. When I did my taxes, and could not value my labor, I pretty much stated the value of my textile work at the cost of the frame.
I have spent most of my life making textile art; a good thing, as it helped heal me of cancer and brought about a certain amount of notoriety. But those works were small. Americans do not like “small”. I dreamed of making large work, but could not figure how to make my textiles big, but still in the way that I like to approach a composition.
After 9/11, I could no longer stay inside in my studio and do the painstaking work that I was known for. I starting gluing rocks that I dug in my garden to old percolators and grouted them. These works came from the same place that my collection of 50s dinette sets and 40s porch gliders come from. A kind of a yearning to “re-do”.
The crown jewel of my collecting was the 1939 farm house that I bought for ten thousand. I moved it about three miles down the road to my acreage, and what others thought was true waste, I thought was magnificent. I did not see what was there, I saw what it could be. Meantime, my rocks on percolators had grown to smashed waste tile on pots, and that then grew into floors. I did not invest in a tile cutter because I hate tools and would rather not buy them.
So I became the tile lady and this work satisfied my creativity the same way the textiles did. Both involve interlocking shapes. One difference is that I cannot work with tile any time I want. I could with stitching. This is still difficult to get used to.