Emily Crabtree has splayed out her memories through visually abstract explorations of mark-making and paper-cutting for a contemplative exhibition called Fibers of Recollection.
In its entirety, the show demonstrates Crabtree's varied skills: drawing, painting and mixed media sculpture. Creating the pieces over a period of months, allowed Crabtree to let the work evolve itself, rather than planning the finished outcome. Using what she refers to as "informed intuition," she had to trust that her unconscious thoughts would be the ultimate content of each piece.
"It's not completely random, though; I'm definitely applying my knowledge of design elements and drawing to everything I do," she says.
"I'd get into this space where I would just be working and working and I'd be remembering things," says Crabtree, a BFA student. "The memories would be in that space with me as I was working." Her stream of consciousness was influencing her marks and shapes. Pointing to a heavy dark form that snakes in and out of one of her paintings, she laughs. "When I painted that I was really frustrated about something."
"Unraveled Space," a 6-foot by 7-foot canvas filled with winding shapes, forms and gestures, was the first piece Crabtree produced for the show. Discouraged by the small paintings she was making at the time, Crabtree pinned a large canvas onto her wall and began painting directly onto the canvas without much thought. "It was exciting because of the size of it. It really consumed my space; I could really get into the painting when I was working on it."
Most impressive is the site-specific installation of cut paper that bares the same title as the exhibition. Fibers of Recollection appears as a visual wave of textures and patterns that meander across an entire wall in the gallery. Twenty-four yards of white, gray and black paper has been carefully cut with intricate organic shapes that gracefully flow into each other in overlapping waves and loops. Light cast onto the piece produces shadows that contribute to an overall depth to the piece, for an end result that is greater than the sum of its parts.
To produce this installation Crabtree was awarded a $500 UNCA research grant to purchase materials and construct the piece. Influenced by artists such as Eva Hess, she began cutting elaborate patterns into the paper, a medium Crabtree enjoys for its texture and approachability. "Cutting the paper is really natural for me," she says. "I use to felt my son's toys, so I'm used to slow and tedious work. It takes a lot of patience."
Other pieces in the exhibition challenge the concept of linear time and space. "The Forgetting Series" explores memories through overlapping vellum pages of ink splashes and drawings. Viewers are invited to touch the work and upon doing so one sees underlying forms appear beneath their finger.
"The work pays homage to the fact that you can cover up feelings and block out memories, but actually everything is still there, " says Crabtree. "You can pinpoint the moments you want to see clearly and everything else is hazy."
Fibers of Recollection hangs thru Dec. 1 at Tucker Gallery in Owen Hall on the UNCA campus. Crabtree will give a talk at the gallery on Tuesday, Dec. 1, as part of UNCA's research grant recipient's symposium. Check the public events calendar at www.unca.edu for more info about the symposium and upcoming art exhibits at UNCA.