Saturday, March 15, 2014

"The Thread's theThing," for artist Patricia Resseguie

Patricia Resseguie

CQA's March 8 guest speaker, artist Patricia Resseguie of Camano Island, may have had no formal art training before entering the field in 1990…but she's surely made up for that in the 15 years since! In her talk, "Material Risks," Resseguie described her willingness to try every type of material that she came across as she let her creativity come forth.

Often, Resseguie will start a piece doing something she's never done before: "Everything that happens in my pathway always moves the work forward," she said. In her earliest work—done at a community arts center workshop—she experienced working with clay sculpture and was hooked. "This was the first art I'd done since elementary school," she said with a laugh.

(Clockwise from upper left) Pieces in plaster, felt, sisal
The clay soon gave way to other materials, including plaster, sisal, felt, etc. Once she had created a body of work she applied to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago…and was accepted, finally earning an MFA. Here she experimented with an even wider variety of materials including, in several pieces, stretched hog gut! 

The red is stretched hog gut!

Continuing in the graduate program at the School, Resseguie had a studio that featured a large window overlooking Lake Michigan. One day while looking at the view, she focused in on the smudged glass itself and noticed a liberal sprinkling of fingerprints there and on the windowsill.

Resseguie began to collect fingerprints...
"I became fascinated with fingerprints and how these tiny fragments of human identity look like topographical maps," she related,
"and with fingerprint dust, just like 'CSI,' I lifted some prints and began a series of collaged prints."

...ultimately turning the prints into collages.

Some of these pieces feature details filled in with a Sharpie on a panel of organza floating in front of the original print, to produce desired depth and shadow.

Detail of a piece with organza overlay to create shadows

 Later pieces in this series have physical "wrinkles" that resemble physical landscapes; she achieves this effect with thread that, once woven into the work, will shrink with heat.

Heat-shrinkable thread creates topographic relief

Another unusual material caught Resseguie's attention as well. "I was unpacking some delivered furniture and became fascinated with the packing materials--corrugated cardboard with a hexagonal, honeycomb structure." Combining the cardboard with beeswax and paraffin, she created two large-scale pieces, the first representing the life of a queen bee: "Maiden Flight to Killing Drone." Another piece, "Losing You," was created at a time of personal loss.

Honeycomb corrugated cardboard in a large sculptural piece
"Losing You"...created with corrugated cardboard, beeswax and paraffin
Labels from consumer products provided the raw materials for a wall hanging now on display at the Schack Art Center in Everett as part of the NW Designer Craftsman exhibit "Tangible Evidence." Resseguie used the labels to create a sort of net, but then found that the piece sagged too much to be properly displayed. The solution turned out to be ironing the net onto a piece of Pellon interfacing, then painstakingly cutting away the Pellon to open up the "holes" in the piece.

Piece created from consumer labels, once stabilized for hanging
Detail of labels piece
Next, Resseguie began with the material that now marks the majority of her work: thread, of all kinds. Beginning with an old, second-hand sewing machine (since replaced with a modern home-sewing machine), she started experimenting with free-motion embroidery of thumbprints on silk fabrics. Her series "Of Eyes" ranges from those of humans to those of birds, done with dense threadwork on fabric, measuring either 4x4 inches or 2x2 inches: large-scale eyes in small-scale pieces. Her "Lichen" series, where the sizes are 3x3 inches, also features dense threadwork. 

"Wind," thread piece that led to the "Of Eyes" series

"Crawl," in the "Of Eyes" series

"Squawk," left, and "Startle" in the "Of Eyes" series

Two pieces from the "Lichens" series, each 3" square
Soon she began experimenting with the available varieties of dissolve-away stabilizing materials and bobbin threads, with the result that much of her current work consists primarily of thread—lots and lots of thread! Resseguie attends classes at the North Cascades Institute each year, fascinated with the mosses, lichens and other natural elements of the Institute's forest/mountain-foothills setting.
With this inspiration she has created a number of complex, delicate, hanging installations that are created entirely of thread once the supporting dissolvable "stabilizer" material has been washed away. Some of the current pieces in this genre are what Resseguie calls her "hobbit holes," spongy-looking masses of silk threads (7.5 miles in some cases!) over an armature.

Time-consuming? Yes, and then some…anywhere from 150 to 300 hours of stitching can go into these works. Yet viewer reaction to her pieces means a lot to Resseguie, and she tells of what she calls her "hubris piece"—11 feet tall, created with 69.8 miles of thread. But when she found that "viewers were looking at this from the head and not the heart," she related, "I took it down and took it apart." (This elicited a few gasps from the listeners!)

Resseguie has survived two major life events where "all moorings were cut." She had open-heart surgery six years ago, then, three years later, literally dropped dead during an exercise class and was rescued by the use of a defibrillator. It took her a year to return to health. She was just starting on her art again when the Bellevue Arts Museum issued the call for entries for its 2012 Biennial "High Fiber Diet" exhibit. She decided to enter, and was accepted.
"Finding Home" as displayed at BAM "High Fiber Diet" exhibit

After experiencing her own "rebirth," Resseguie wanted her BAM piece to feature a lot of lightness as well as some shadows. The result, "Finding Home," is 10 feet tall and features stitched contour lines and threadwork lichens—all done on tulle, a fabric notorious for being slippery as well as delicate.

"Finding Home" closeup

Detail of lichen element in "Finding Home"
She first created a paper tracing of the contour lines with a tissue overlay for placement of the "patches" of lichen. 

Contour-line drawing (right) and overlay for lichen placement (left)
Then, after stabilizing the tulle with wash-away thread and dissolvable material, she stitched in the contour lines.
Stitching contour lines (left); closeup of lichen placement overlay (right)
She "hooped" and embroidered the lichen pieces separately, then affixed them to the panel of tulle.

Stitching lichen elements in embroidery hoops
Hooped lichen element (left); affixed elements (right)
In the shower, left, before wash-away materials removed; right, finished piece.

 "I had spent 250 hours on the piece before reaching the final step—putting it in the shower to dissolve the stabilizer and wash-away thread," she said, adding "I felt I was recolonizing my life." The piece will be featured in the indoor portion of the Anacortes Arts Festival later this year.

What's next? Among the classes Resseguie has taken at the North Cascades Institute is one on "Personal Mapping" as a way of preserving one's personal history in the form of maps. For this she is thinking of creating a bit of nostalgia by putting her maps on yet another unusual material—vintage handkerchiefs.

Resseguie's work has been widely exhibited both nationally and internationally. For more information on the artist and her work, go to

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