Q&A with Jessica Wohl

  Log Cabin Drip Drape

Log Cabin Drip Drape

In your artist statement, you say this is possibly some of the most formal work you have made. Would you consider the formal nature of the work to be in tension with the inherently useful character of fabric and quilting? If so, could you briefly discuss how that tension may speak to the nature of the work?

I actually see the character of the fabric and the quilting as being a significant part of those formal choices. Being that I'm at the end of a body of work that has been exploring the same concepts for the last eight years, by feeling a resolution with those issues, I'm able to let these works be predominately defined by their form: their colors, textures, lines, patterns, etc. Where I see the most tension in the work is between the fabric and the hair. While the fabric may conjure up notions of nostalgia and familiarity, the hair disrupts a sense of comfort often associated with quilts and domestic textiles. 

   Blue Bunches

Blue Bunches

Where do you mine the majority of your materials? Are they used and reclaimed from thrift stores or yard sales, carefully selected from fabric stores, or from personal collections?

All of the above. Mostly, the fabrics come from thrift stores or my own home. My old clothes, as well as my finance's clothes, rarely make it to the thrift store anymore; now they either end up on a shelf in my studio or on a gallery wall. 

How do you use the language of varying fabrics (velvet, cotton, lace, knits, rayon, etc.) to create dialogue within the pieces?

I rely on the associations people may have with these fabrics to inform the work. For example, some lace might imply lingerie while others might imply a tablecloth. Polyesters will tend to imply something dated, while a solid cotton shape might feel more timeless. Some fabrics might evoke delicate dresses while others can clearly be recognized as masculine, button-down shirts. Hopefully these contradictions will confuse a viewer, and encourage them to spend time figuring out, or considering, these tensions. 

How do you see your work responding to a history of feminist textile works, such as that of Faith Wilding? 

Red Drippy Droops    

In making this work, I didn't intend to respond to the feminist textile artists who came before me; in fact, I have a hard time calling myself a textile artist, even if that's what I am. I approached these works as a painter who likes to sew, using fabric as my paint. That said, I do rely heavily on associations with domesticity and femininity through the use of textiles and their history. 

The recurring forms in these pieces imply specific verbs: droop, fall, sag, slouch, dip. How does this language inform your concepts?

The concepts I had been exploring for years came to the end of their life in this body of work. I'm tired. The work was tired. In a way, these old ideas are dying. I used the droop, fall, hang and slouch as way of expressing that spent energy. It imbues the work with relaxation, despite its otherwise highly active aesthetic. I want it to feel like it's lost its elasticity, but that there's still something valuable in it's old, nearly-lifeless body. 

Jessica Wohl's latest body of work, Letting Go is on view at Zeitgeist through June 27