SUE CAVANAUGH

Mixed-Media Artist

“I am interested in gathering: Assembling, collecting, hoarding, taking needle to cloth and creating folds. The stitching for most of my work stems from the ancient art of patterning cloth for kimono, and most of the names reference these original stitches (even though I’ve transformed them over time). For example, the “Ori-Kume” series combines ori-nui stitches done on the folds, along with mokume running stitches. Hence, “Ori-maki-kume” comes to describe a combination of mokume running stitches and ori-maki-nui stitches - an original hybrid stitch that creates a density I’ve grown to love.

My work began with an 80-day residency in Dresden, Germany. Ever since, it has become much looser. I’ve done many large installations that have influenced my smaller work. My “gathering” has expanded to searching for materials that have had a previous use. “Ori-Kume # 40” uses old linen duvets purchased in Dresden. The “Johari’s Window” pieces had earlier lives as sheer curtains. Other pieces were made from organic cotton sateen, grown using environmentally-friendly methods.

Johari’s Window (both 1 and 2) have two layers of sheers, each stitched and gathered, then the top layer painted. This layering creates a fuzzy barrier that obscures something underneath, implying that that “something” has the potential to be unveiled. The titles reference Johari’s Window, a self-help tool developed by two psychologists (Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham) in the 1950’s. The tool’s design was intended to allow individuals to assess the degree to which the self is known or unknown to one’s self and to others.

Cloth challenges notions of traditional art. At the same time, fabric is universally accessible and comforting. I’m particularly attracted to dichotomies, to yin/yang, attraction/repulsion, black/white and the vastness of the gray area in between. All my work begins with a drawing, a plan; but the surprises that develop along the way delight and challenge me. These surprises, in turn, inform future works.”