Monday, March 22, 2010

Tribute to Helen Frankenthaler?

An assignment for the next ArtCloth Mastery class was to choose an artist, prepare a presentation about him/her, and create a work inspired by some aspect of that artist's style. I chose Helen Frankenthaler as my artist. That decision was made after spending time in the San Antonio Museum of Art, looking at the contemporary art section.

I was drawn to Frankenthaler's work mainly because of her use of staining. She was one of the early painters who worked on unprimed canvas with thinned paints. An approach similar to Jackson Pollack, but with a very different look. I felt that what she did was very similar to what I do on fabric.

As I did more research on her and her work, I was drawn to her work that was composed of large areas of color. Seemingly very simple, yet they had a depth and complexity to them. I would like to be able to capture that in my work. I feel there is a way to create depth and complexity without layers of screenprinting, but I haven't given myself permission to try it yet.

Frankenthaler works very spontaneously, painting without a pre-set plan. I wasn't quite ready for that yet, so I played with a design exercise from one of the books I've been reading. You take a piece of construction paper and cut or tear it into pieces. Then arrange some of the pieces on top of a contrasting color paper to form a composition. I added a third color because I wanted to use a split complementary color scheme. I wasn't necessarily trying to create a piece that looked like Frankenthaler's, rather I wanted to try to capture the essence of her work. Below is the paper study I did first.

Then I set out to recreate it by painting dyes on fabric. I used silk noil, thinking that might react more similarly to canvas. I did not thicken the dyes because I wanted some blending to occur. The end result looks more like it was inspired by an impressionist. The dye did not absorb easily into the fabric, so I ended up with more brush strokes than I wanted. And the colors were not as bold as I wanted.

So I don't think I met the criteria for the assignment, but I think the piece has possibilities. It still needs some work. Maybe some additional hand-painting or stitching.


  1. Lisa, that is a interesting concept that I think has a lot of potential. The painting with "liquid" dyes is something that I do frequently on my work unintentionally. I now wonder what would result if I intentionally set out to work this way. I'm thinking the silk broadcloth would work better - it still has "tooth" but not as knobby as silk noil. Just need about 24 more hours a day!

  2. I agree - I think the silk broadcloth would work much better. And I plan to recreate this on a piece of broadcloth to see what happens. I'm thinking of doing it wet on wet, which means I will have to let go of some of that need to control exactly what happens!


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