The nature series includes work inspired by nature, especially the organization and perception of nature by humans. The series explores a range of ideas including beauty, metaphor, abstraction, memory, and artifice. My unique stitched constructions intersect art, design, and fashion exposing a relationship to the body through skin, scale, and structure. I invent new methods and materials to develop textile structures and interlock meaning within the structure. Frequently this integrates a connection between the antecedents of history, both factual and mythological, to the mores of current society. In this way I utilize textile artwork to enhance perception of contemporary culture.
While stitching is often used for surface embellishment (embroidery) or joining materials, I simultaneously develop both the structure and surface of an object through the stitching process. I am committed to stitching because this ubiquitous method, prevalent throughout history, still has something new to say. The stitch creates a mark, adds color, and defines the structure. Most of my work utilizes a dissolvable polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) substrate to recycle otherwise discarded materials--especially those left over from the fashion industry--giving new life to these remnants within a stitched organization. The artwork in the nature series was created using a variety of methods juxtaposing traditional textile hand processes with new technology. Time-honored techniques include vat over-dyeing and hand printing of repurposed fabric. Newer technology of digital textile printing and laser cutting are also incorporated in the work creation.
The largest piece in the series is The Garden Wall, an installation that plays off the theme of paradise in the Garden of Eden. It includes embroidered words that signify human desires and messages from cyberspace—otherwise known as spam—that promise dream fulfillment, wealth, and life enhancement. Another installation, The Forest, expresses the readiness humans have to create faux surfaces to stand in for nature. The fanciful and humorous appearance of The Forest contrasts the reality of disconnected limbs and a fragmented society devoid of human contact. The piece reflects on the idea of population and urbanization as a substitute for nature. The garment, Falling Leaves, is a response to The Forest because the leaves from the trees have attached themselves to a wearable structure, in a sense falling onto the body.
Other wearable pieces made for the nature series are inspired by rivers, streams, and the ocean. The hand dyed and stitched fabrics mimic bubbles, moving currents, reflections, moss and similar elements attributed to natural bodies of water. Cowboy del Mar and Cowgirl del Mar were made specifically for this exhibition; the garment designs are typical of clothing seen in the wild, wild west of U.S.A.'s past, however in keeping with the theme of water, fabric "seaweed" replaces the leather fringe that personifies this western style.
Work in the nature series offers the experience of nature as a familiar reference point without any of the inconveniences such as hay fever, ticks, bugs, dirt, or weather. Whether literal, metaphorical, or abstracted, nature is an integral and important aspect of everyday psyche. Ideally the work in this series will inspire people to think about their own relationship with the natural world.
Work in this series was shown in three solo exhibitions:
A Natural Phenomenon, Espace Odyssée, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada (August 23-October 6, 2013)
A Sartorial Nature, The Fashion Gallery, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong (September 1-29, 2011)
Oh Naturale, Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE (March 1-26, 2010)
Copyright 1982-2014 Susan Taber Avila