Textile Narratives: Vintage, Found & Transformed

Textile Talk Recording- July 2021 Surface Design Association

Maggy Rozycki Hiltner (2018) Memorial Wreath: Take Care of Yourself. Hand-stitched and found embroidery, cotton, linen 14 x 16″ SDA (2021)

As stated by the moderator Merill Comeau, materials matter to Maggy Rozycki Hiltner, Susan Lenz, and Jennifer Lee Morrow. As noted It is the thrill of the hunt, the serendipity of the discovery, and the buzz of appropriate appropriation that informs their studio practices. These artists described how they seek out and find their preferred vintage materials and are guided by, and transform objects to create their own stories layered on those of the past. Maggy Rozycki Hiltner lives in Montana. She works with found embroidery and quilts and serves as a Regional Representative for SAQA. Susan Lenz is a fibre and installation artist in South Carolina. Her work is grounded in stitches and the desire to give second life to discarded items. Jennifer Lee Morrow is a Maine-based mixed media artist with a strong interest in paper and textile techniques.

Jennifer Lee Morrow avidly collects bits of paper and cloth and other objects that come into her life. She collects the stories she hears and the ones she imagines. Then through alchemy, tinkering, and stitching, she combines and alters these substances until the stories deepen and become her own. Her current pieces are “bricolage” created from a diverse range of available materials. The narratives portrayed centre upon societal relationships illustrated through the physical relationship of materials through juxtaposition and layering. She explores gender dynamics, mothering, family history and secrets, and her personal growth through a narrative of symbols and patterns individual to her but open to universal interpretation. She works to create objects of beauty that will enhance the viewers’ lives as they connect to the story, the colours, the surfaces, and the imagery of each piece.

Jennifer Lee Morrow (2016) Summer Willendorf. Found & altered papers, found wood, bait bag, rhinestones, nails, tacks, staples, hardware, wax, paint, 26″ x 26″ x 4″
Jennifer Lee Morrow (2016) Detail of Summer Willendorf. Found & altered papers, found wood, bait bag, rhinestones, nails, tacks, staples, hardware, wax, paint, 26″ x 26″ x 4″

Fibre artist Susan Lenz uses hand stitching, and self-guided free motion embroidery to create her eclectic range of textile work. She studied under several internationally acclaimed artists including Charlotte Miller, Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn which has continued to influence her practice. As Susan Lenz noted she uses needle and thread for self-expression, I work to articulate the accumulated memory inherent in discarded things. I seek a partnership with my materials, their purposes, values, and familiar associations. Memory, universal mortality, and personal legacy are central themes. Vintage and recycled materials are combined with meticulous handwork and self-guided, free-motion machine embroidery. Increasingly Susan Lenz added to her collection of things which embrace clocks, scraps, hardware, bottle caps, medical equipment, utensils, buttons, sewing items including scissors, bobbins, photographs, vintage household items, etc to elevate mundane everyday items, to lift their status and function through the development of her works of art. Susan Lenz noted Everything old is new again. This is actually an important part of my work. I depend on the perceived relationships viewers have with the found objects I use in order for the themes to be obvious to them. I’ll use anything that seems appropriate to communicate an idea. Creativity is innate. Everyone has it but it is also a skill that can be deepened by practice, desire, and education/learning. http://www.susanlenz.com/

Susan Lenz (2020) Avid Collector of Materials for Artwork including Old Nails to Create Installations
Susan Lenz (2020) Avid Collector of Materials for Artwork including Old Thread Spools to Create Installations
Susan Lenz (2020) Mandala I Framed: 46″ x 46″. Currently available at the Grovewood Gallery, Asheville, NC

Susan Lenz focuses upon stitch both by hand and machine but also indulges in a passion for book arts and unique, 3D found art objects. Altering found materials is a key focus. Her work has appeared in national publications, numerous juried exhibitions, and at fine craft shows including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Smithsonian Craft Shows. She has been featured on art quilting television programmes and on South Carolina Etv’s Palmetto Scene. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Textile Museum in Washington, DC, and the McKissick Museum in South Carolina. The Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina represents her. As stated by Susan Lenz…I do stitch. I love hand stitching and self-guided free motion embroidery. I accidentally started making art quilts in 2008 – My Decision Portraits are ‘art quilts’… three layers held together with stitch, but I was making the twelfth or thirteenth before it was pointed out that this was the definition of an art quilt. There are now 108 pieces in this series, and they are currently on display as a solo show at Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona. They have had several other solo shows before this one. I also enjoy using fibres in my installations and in my 3D mixed media assemblages. The techniques I use are determined by the concept I am trying to convey and how I think I might best do this. I am often inspired by the found objects and vintage materials that sneak into my stash. https://www.textileartist.org/susan-lenz-interview/

Susan Lenz (2020) Mandala’s- Continuing Themes-Collection of Things including keys and forks to display configurations together within specific collections
Susan Lenz (2012) Last Words, a solo installation Rocky Mount’s Imperial Centre Rocky Mount, NC using found materials and hand stitching

Maggy Hiltner’s work often centres upon intimate figurative narratives, Dick-and-Jane style kids in semi-autobiographical scenes from her childhood.  She was raised in Pennsylvania— the land of coal and steel and industrial waste. The more she researched, the more she knew she had to include pollution, both seen and unseen, within her personal landscapes.

Maggy Rozycki Hitner (2016) Installation view: Lawrence Arts Center, Lawrence, Kansas. Vantage Point. Panels. Hand-stitched cotton and found embroidery, 2015.

In April 2014, Maggy Rozycki Hiltner was selected to create an installation for the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum’s Dr Ruth Tan Lim Project Room. As an embroidery artist, filling 72 linear feet of wall space with hand-stitched imagery would be her largest project to date. She began by designing an idealised landscape with a big blue sky, green grass, and puffy white clouds. Researching ways of depicting cloud forms led her to thinking about clouds as water vapor and then water vapor as greenhouse gas. And other clouds— volcanic plumes, mushroom clouds, emissions from factories and puffs rising from the cooling towers of nuclear reactors—drew her attention as well. The resulting piece, Vantage Point, travelled from Mesa to other venues, changing shape to fit each one. In 2018, Hiltner stitched an additional 39 linear feet to make the piece site-specific for the Holter Art Museum in Helena, Montana.

Maggy Rozycki Hitner (2015) Vantage Point. Panels. Hand-stitched cotton and found embroidery

These 46-inch by 48-inch panels, part of the “Maggy Rozycki Hiltner: Vantage Point” exhibition, show images of environmental degradation due to farming practices.

Maggy Rozycki Hitner (2018) Perennial Vintage linen, found embroidery overdyed found quilt.

The artist has tasked herself with questioning the artifacts of her culture by changing their context and content. Working with handmade remnants of the past, she repurposes them to comment on the present. The history of a quilt pattern as well as its geometry is contrasted with the wild colour and billowing abundance of found embroidery and the solemn beauty of the skeleton in linen. She particularly relishes working in found materials, to try and celebrate and elevate their abandoned handwork to a heightened level to add meaning, value, and relevance to these antique and vintage household material goods. Through using hand stitching and embroidery these vintage linens and their associated motifs are brought back to life through contemporary narratives and storytelling.

Hiltner grew up in the 10-mile evacuation radius of Limerick Generating Station, a nuclear power plant in Pottstown, PA. The Limerick towers could be seen from the windows of her middle school classroom. Maggy Hiltner and her friends swam in the bathtub-warm water downstream from the power plant. “The Schuylkill River, once dubbed America’s foulest river, was cleaned up in the 40’s and 50’s—this meant the coal silt was dredged from the river and dumped in an area we kids would later call ‘The Black Desert’,” said Hiltner.  “After a day of riding our bikes through the Black Desert, we had to hose off the black silt before we’d be allowed in the house. On Thanksgiving trips to Grandma’s, my father would make a short detour through Centralia, so the family could check on the progress of the underground coal fire that had been burning there since 1962.” These troubling exposures have coloured Hiltner’s adulthood and her creative output.

Maggy Rozycki Hitner (2013) Gas Can #2: Gas Money Hand stitched cotton and found textiles on gas can. Influenced by Mayan Vase with Rollout

Maggy Hiltner set herself to stitching natural and manmade disasters into her landscapes as she continued to research these ecological problems. Maps and illustrations drew Hiltner to include portolan lines and vanishing points—adding movement and a linear design element and poking fun at her tendency towards flat representation. “I included found embroidery cut from countless tablecloths and handkerchiefs” and the artist generated a list of terms and places picked up from headlines, news stories, and research. This text became a news ticker above and below, informing the individual scenes. The world Hiltner visualised is still beautiful, but the impact of human consumption and waste is everywhere. https://cehs.unl.edu/maggy-hiltner-vantage-point/

Maggy Rozycki Hitner (2013) Gas Can #3: Lawn Party-Home Town Hand stitched cotton and found textiles on gas can.

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