Let Me Show You the World: The Sewn Drawings of China Marks
October 21, 2007 – December 16, 2007
“Let Me Show You the World: The Sewn Drawings of China Marks” was on view in the Hyle Family Gallery from October 21 to December 16. The exhibition featured twenty-six works by New York-based artist China Marks. Her wildly imaginative works are, as New York Times art critic Grace Glueck has noted, “pieced together with wizardly dexterity.” Through her inventive and distinctive method, an improvisational and revelatory dance of mind, hand, and material, Marks arrives at fantastic creations that are at once in and out of this world. For Marks, process is the transformative agent. It is the generative force from which form, content, and meaning issue. As she has observed: “Whenever I make a sewn drawing, the process itself takes me wherever it will, to places I could never imagine or arrive at in a more direct way.”
Composed from fragmentary bits and pieces of commercially printed fabric, Marks’s sewn drawings are formally sophisticated and psychologically vivid. In theme, content, and style, the array of printed fabric she uses is wide ranging—race cars fit for a young boy’s bed linens; pastoral landscapes evocative of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European prints, fabric of the sort one could find covering a winged back chair or as drapery in an upper-middle class American home; brilliantly colored and patterned florals; paisleys; fanciful Rococo chinoiserie, to name but a few. Her sources of fabric are as equally varied—discount fabric stores in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn; second-hand and vintage clothing stores; fabric stores visited while traveling; and pieces and scraps from people who know her work. In short, anyplace she can buy a yard or so of fabric that catches her eye. Under her hands and through the action of her industrial zig-zag sewing machine, Marks transforms these disparate fragments of imagery, texture, and meaning into unified and cohesive wholes. The sewing machine is no mere implement for fixing fabric to support. It is the artist’s drawing instrument, out of which she coaxes all manner of effects—line, hatching, scumbling, modeling. A synthesis and subversion of the forms and narrative contained in the constituent pieces of fabric, the drawings are rich in story and brimming with metaphoric possibility.