Wove Girl

17 Mar 2009    

"Lia Cook: In Touch, Faces and Mazes," a solo show featuring the work of California artist Lia Cook opened in TCD's Hillestad Textiles Gallery on Monday, March 16 and continues through Friday April 10. Cook, a weaver from Berkeley, CA and faculty member at the California College of the Arts., uses an electronic Jacquard hand loom to weave faces that dissolve into continuously changing, maze-like patterns. As the faces fragment, a perceptual shift occurs, moving through a place of transition and ambiguity to reveal the physical, tactile nature of the constructed image. Cook uses a detail, often re-photo- graphed, layered and re-woven in oversize scale, to intensify an emotional or sensual encounter.

The show, organized and curated by Hillestad Gallery Director and TCD Professor Wendy Weiss, is a traveling exhibit that will be on tour through 2011. The Hillestad Gallery is the first venue on the tour.

Cook will present a public lecture, "Lia Cook: Faces and Mazes," at 4 p.m. April 4 in Room 11 of the Human Sciences Building , north of 35th Street and East Campus Loop.

The following gallery statement by TCD Professor and department Chair Michael James statement provides a conceptual interpretation of the Cook work included in the exhibition:

And even if you were in some prison, the walls of which let none of the sounds of the world come to your senses - would you not then still have your childhood, that precious, kingly possession, that treasure-house of memories? ~Rainer Maria Rilke

The photographs of our childhood selves that we carry around with us through life, moments of our pasts captured by unseen witnesses, document the innocence, the anticipation, the ambition, the fear, the disappointment and often the confusion that qualified those now out-of-focus days. They locate us in time, and by their nature they allude to our inexorable mortality. This is no doubt why they are so weighted with personal meaning, so complicated. We don’t want to go back there, we can’t – yet, these records forever link us to our ‘blank slate’ selves, with all of the unpredictability and possibility we embodied once upon a time.

Lia Cook crops snapshots of her earlier self and other family members to intimate proportions and then presents them on a much magnified scale that amplifies their intimacy. Blurred gently and fused with grid-based patterns that reference mazes, the snapshot portraits capture the restlessness and the emotional highs and lows of early childhood. Complex weave structures, driven by digital technology, assert the primacy of the textile object and engage the viewer in a process of perception, interpretation, and self-questioning. In so doing, they transcend their materiality to limn the hazy borders of dream and memory.

Dolls effect a more distanced, rueful tone, more assertive and confrontational in the way they seem to knowingly scrutinize, to judge. Indifferent objects of juvenile affection, they seem proud of that indifference and immune to the extremes of emotion invested in them by their childhood guardians. Fed, dressed, carried about, pampered, laid to sleep, shelved – they remain forever uncomplaining, recipient, resolute in their impassive sang froid.

 The transmission of these images is filtered by the mechanics of the electronic weaving process and results in a veil of interference of the type formerly associated with analogue television and radio broadcasts and now more frequently experienced as pixelation. This interference serves metaphorically to define the intractable problems of both individual and collective memory: their infidelity, their inaccuracy and their elusiveness. Lia Cook’s accomplishment is located in her ability to connect the sensual experiences of touch and sight to the emotional processes of memory and recall. Her images function as mnemonic devices, suggesting to viewers moments from their own distant pasts, while the woven panels from which those images appear ground those viewers in the physicality of the present. The integration of form and concept is both rational and magical.

©2009 Michael James

Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design