Our September Featured Member is Marcelyn (Lynn) Bennett-Carpenter, an interdisciplinary fiber artist and educator. In this month’s conversation with TSA News, Bennett-Carpenter shares her explorations into textiles as architecture, graffiti and psychological tools.
Textile Society of America: Please tell us a bit about your work process and inspiration
Lynn Bennett-Carpenter: I have several bodies of work that include Handwoven Drawings, interactive elastic installations, touchable sculptures, and drawings on paper. Currently, I am working mostly on the Handwoven Drawings that have evolved from two dimensional wall pieces to include sculptural works or screens. The Handwoven Drawings are basically weaving with strips using wood instead of soft materials like ribbon.
My process is to draw on the wood first which takes me the longest time. Once the drawing is finished, I hand cut the wood into thin strips using an exacto knife. The hand cutting gives the wood a gentle undulation that mimics thread. The strips are then woven back together into the warp on the floor loom. The materials I use are wood, cotton, lurex, acrylic, ink, graphite, inkjet prints, metallic paints, silverpointe, metal leaf, etc. The drawing combines with the woven structure that overlays the drawing. I often work into the surface of the Handwoven Drawing once it comes off the loom: coloring warp threads to match the color of the drawing behind, embroidering, and sometimes collaging images of human-things suspended in air. The handwoven drawings are installed to float away from the wall and they often glow a color from behind giving them a sense of floating in space. Shadows also play by projecting the work’s basic structure on the wall behind. I hope to create a rewarding visual experience through these various layers and components. The three dimensional works have drawings on both sides of the wood and once woven are flexible and curve around while standing up.
My drawings are very much inspired by basic textile design strategies using repeat patterns. I employ mirroring quite a bit and think of the drawing as a cartoon for a tapestry, but here the cartoon is the weaving itself. The repeated images usually are just one repeat and don’t go on forever. The similarity to a Rorschach inkblot test is intentional. The images start to become something else in our imagination and personal associations – there is a slippage and opening up through the back and forth of seeming equal parts. I want these images to be psychological and the response something that could be analyzed and thought about psychologically. However, unlike a Rorschach test, these images have specific locations and addresses on a map. They are not abstract nor are they a chance image. They are created from real places where people live and interact with in their day-to-day lives. The homes and trees are the architecture where lives are lived and have exact addresses on a map. To me, this is where our psychology resides, it starts and develops in very specific addresses. Our psychology is held within ourselves and ourselves resides in homes and amongst trees. Insides and outsides.
TSA: Do you encounter any misconceptions about your work and how do you address these?
LBC: I purposely equalized two mediums – drawing and weaving. The Handwoven Drawings defy categorization – are they textile? Are they drawing? Are they sculptures? Visually, I believe the drawing is what makes the first impact and the woven aspect comes second. I love to draw and I love to weave, so the Handwoven Drawings developed from my trying to merge these two loves. I was curious to see if I could bring a graffiti aesthetic to weaving – something that looked fresh, spontaneous, and renegade. The structure of the threads could be interpreted as the architecture of the drawing just as the building’s brickwork is the textured substrate for graffiti.
TSA: Are you actively collecting textiles? Please share something about this collection or about the process of collecting in general
LBC:I am not a collector of textiles, but I am an active member of Gerhardt Knodel’s Textile Group that meets regularly in Metropolitan Detroit and is a group of active collectors and makers of textiles. Through this group we look closely at textiles that are significant (and sometimes insignificant) historical and cultural artifacts from around the world or works we have made ourselves. We have several collectors who have deep collections of textiles from all over the world and I benefit greatly from being able to examine these works – fronts and backs. We also travel to see museums’ textile collections. The collection that has had the biggest influence on my work is from the University of Michigan’s collection of Kashmir textiles and Gerhardt Knodel’s own amazing Kashmir textiles. These textiles are complex visually and in their construction. The abstractions of flora and fauna, play of symmetry and asymmetry, mirroring repeats, and large voids in the center resonate deeply with me and have an affinity with my work.
TSA: What projects are you currently working on?
LBC: The sculptural and interactive installation work is creeping more and more into what is possible with the Handwoven Drawings especially as they become three dimensional. As my interest in interactive works merge more into the Handwoven Drawings, I am discovering more valuable territory to be explored. I am currently planning and prepping for my biggest Handwoven Drawing to date measuring 10 feet in length. This Handwoven Drawing will arch away from the wall supported by an armature. People will be able to walk under the Handwoven Drawing like they would a waterfall. This will activate the backside of the Handwoven Drawing, the glow of color, and the play of shadow that will be cast on the wall. Other shapes of armatures will eventually be explored that will bring surprising configurations to the Handwoven Drawings.
Lynn Bennett-Carpenter is an interdisciplinary fiber artist and educator. She currently serves as the Artist-in-Residence of the Kingswood Weaving Studio at Cranbrook (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA) which is the largest hand-weaving studio in North America and is devoted to the education of young artists. Bennett-Carpenter earned a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2003. Bennett-Carpenter has taught at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina, attended the Open Residency at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and a recent Good Hart Artist-in-Residence. Bennett-Carpenter maintains an active practice through her studio in Pontiac, Michigan, and exhibits throughout North America including a solo show called Singluars at the Crooked Tree Art Center in Petoskey, Michigan, Landscapes Real and Imagined (Site: Brooklyn, New York), Extreme Fibers: Icons and the New Edge (Muskegon Art Museum), and The Social Fabric (Textile Society of America, Vancouver, British Columbia). Recent work includes a commission for the Applebaum Family Foundation (Birmingham, Michigan) and a large-scale installation for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Fisher Music Center (Detroit). Private collectors of her work include Dan and Jennifer Gilbert among others. Lynn is also co-founder of the Namtenga Soundo Babisi Studio, an active weaving co-operative in Burkina Faso, West Africa that was established in 2007.
Look out for next month’s member and be sure to complete your TSA Member profile to be featured!