2016, an overview in “Tapestry Topics”

Selfies in Tapestry: Slo Art in the Age of Quick

by Margaret Sunday

tt-group-selfie Group Selfie  top: Ruth Manning, Alex Friedman, Michael F. Rohde, Alex Friedman, Tamar Shadur.  middle: Sarah C. Swett, Anton Veenstra, Margaret Sunday, Sarah C. Swett, Andean Huari-style. bottom: Tommye Scanlin, Anton Veenstra, Coptic 9th century, Louise Halsey, Janet Austin.

The idea for a selfies project originated from excitement on ATA-Talk, the ATA members’ discussion list, over the selfies-sourced tapestries of Erin Riley. The resulting themed exhibit and blog were introduced a year later, in November 2013. Selfies in Tapestry: Slo Art in the Age of Quick is not officially sponsored by ATA, and so it has evolved organically and inclusively with members of the British Tapestry Group and independent tapestry artists exhibiting and writing for its pages. Criteria for participation are broad: subject matter addresses the artist’s image of self, and art works incorporate tapestry techniques. The process for submitting images and proposals is explained on the “About Selfies in Tapestry” page.

Since the content of this exhibit cannot be predicted and is by its nature changing, the blog presents contributions in contexts that connect them back to the central question: Can (up-to-the-minute) selfies be created via the ancient, labor-intensive process of tapestry weaving? This generative question leads to questions concerning the nature of technology, communication, human identity, popular and “high” culture, and art and social responsibility. It is a biggie. The 26 contemporary artists whose works appear to date approach these questions in many ways: through metaphorical, symbolic, stylized or fantasy imagery invented for self-depiction; woven interpretations of digital esthetic elements, such as pixels and casual cropping; self-portraiture with social messages; and images based on actual selfies made with camera phones. New tapestries have been and are being created for this exhibit, older works brought forward, and unfinished projects given second life.

The driving editorial mindset of the Selfies on Slow blog is permission—permission to jump in, to try, to be “in process,” to revisit and to push beyond one’s perceived artistic and conceptual limits. A balance is sought between openness toward contributions and a high quality, inviting presentation for both artists and viewers. This approach, coupled with the connective potential of social media, has proven stimulating for the tapestry community through informal mentoring via email, extended selfies-driven discussions on tapestry Facebook pages, and professional opportunities for e-publishing research and critical writing.  

Several options are available to artists who are interested in participating. These include:

  • Individual artist’s galleries, pages which are devoted to the art work of one person, which can be assembled and managed by the artist or by a curator/ reviewer.
  • Group shows, including theme shows focusing on works dealing with images of self in contexts and as metaphors, and a section for portraits.
  • Resource galleries featuring historic tapestries and descriptions of contributors’ research. 
  • Essays, critical reviews.
  • Open discussion.
  • Informative and administrative pages explaining the project, its philosophy and updates, as well as transcripts of the original discussion of selfies on ATA-Talk.

The whole has been compared to a large Victorian house, where one can go from room to room discovering something new to see or consider. While the house continues to expand and ramble, it is hoped that the experience is fresh, stimulating and curiosity-piquing with each visit.

first published in Tapestry Topics: ATA’s Quarterly Online Newsletter,  Spring 2016  vol.42 no.1, pp.20-21, and followed by “Imaging the Self” by Mary Lane, a review of selected works from this blog—    https://selfiesonslow.wordpress.com/imaging-the-self