Artist Statement-Deb Lawrence
I reinvent discarded shards of well-loved textiles in novel, intimate ways, instilling them with a veritable soul. My work is comprised of creased, cutout, layered, painted and stitched fragments of antique textiles, previously used as nightshirts, bed linens and mattress covers. I’m elevating the lowly security blanket, building entirely new soulful creations out of cherished fragments from the past. Whether hanging suspended from a clothesline revealing their undersides, or mounted in deep profile frames, my layered textile paintings engage in fresh, innovative ways.
Linen textiles hand woven by women in the 1800’s are creased and coated with layers of paint, creating striking dimensionality. Others are layered with leftover cutouts from the studio floor, brushed with acrylic paint and marble dust, and then reassembled into novel compositions like a textile jigsaw puzzle.
Like a well worn, well loved security blanket, my work deals with women’s internal struggle to feel comfortable in our own skin and external struggle to be heard and valued in contemporary society. Coarse threads, hand stitched seams, and occasional repairs highlight vestiges of the female hand and engender a sense of strength, authenticity and beauty, honoring our “blemishes.” Titles serve as wry “self-help” provocations to get comfortable in our own skin and cope with contemporary life.
I aim to have a distinctive voice in the conversation about elevating the role of women and handcrafted objects to high art in the tradition of Judy Chicago, Rosemarie Trockel, the women of Gees Bend, and others whose work is inspired by countless “unknown women” who have painstakingly handcrafted master works of art with little or no recognition or acclaim.
My work has been influenced by my unique upbringing in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the 60s by smart, liberal, activist parents who never were pompous or frilly or put on airs. My dad has his MD and my mom earned her PhD but you would never know it by looking at them. I went to a farm based Montessori preschool, a public elementary school with “open classrooms” which my mom helped to create, and an alternative high school that allowed me to fashion my own education. My mom took one class at a time over 12 years to earn her Ph. D so she could be home while we were young. She went on to become a nationally recognized writer and researcher on progressive education, worked part time at a teen crisis center, and fought city council on all sorts of humanitarian and environmental issues. My dad built a sea worthy sailboat out of lumber from trees he cut down himself when he was in his 70s. He is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back…whether he knew you or not…if he felt it would make a meaningful difference in your life. Being raised the way I was clearly has a lot to do with my becoming the person and artist I am today. I, too, am passionate, take risks, and wear my heart on my sleeve. As a contemporary artist my work is about helping ourselves and others feel valued and genuinely good about ourselves…honoring our blemishes…like a well worn, well loved security blanket.