Artist's Statement, Brystkluter Series, 2005-2008

Much of the painting I've done over the last ten years has been influenced by textiles. I frequently use decorative motifs and/or repeating patterns, and I have often appropriated the techniques of textile and surface designers in furthering my conceptual goals. In my Brystkluter paintings, however, I take a much more literal approach to my subject matter through the representation of certain historic textiles.

My interest in textiles first found expression in my paintings after making a brief trip to Norway in 1996. Though I subsequently have investigated a number of different decorative traditions, Scandinavia remains a strong source of inspiration, and in the summer of 2000 I returned to Norway on a research grant to learn more about its extensive folk textile heritage. While visiting folk museums and studying their collections in the course of my research, I became aware of an aspect of women's folk costumes, a highly ornamented bodice insert known as a brystklut or bringeduk. The formal, geometric organization of these brystkluter reminded me of modern paintings, and so taking them out of context and turning them into painterly representations of the original museum artifact seemed like an appropriate thing to do.

The original brystkluter on which I am basing these paintings were executed in a number of techniques (cross-stitch, applique', beadwork, etc.) on odd scraps of cloth as backing fabrics, which remain visible at the edges of the design. Many of these backing cloths are patterned, and contrast in an interesting way with the patterns applied on top of them. The fact that these "found" patterns were ultimately concealed when worn on the costume was another aspect that intrigued me about these objects, and I usually give equal weight to describing both the "found" patterns and the applied patterns in my paintings. I have tried in these works to give a sense of the cloth as a physical entity with light playing across its surface. In addition, I have often felt compelled to render the various artifacts of wear that the brystkluter possess, like holes, stains, abrasions and unraveled threads.

As paintings from photographs of objects in museums, these images have undergone a considerable transformation from their original intent as bodily embellishment. It is my hope that the viewer will simultaneously get an appreciation for the beauty of their design as well as for their rendering in paint.