For some, thread is an essential component of the finished work; for others, thread passes through the process as tool, present only in the potent traces it leaves behind.
Oriane Stender relishes thread’s ability to pass through the surface of the plane, underscoring the physical nature of the object. “Thread is line, but it exists in three dimensions, where line exists only in two. Thread is a way of joining and holding together actual things that exist in space, unlike the 2D planes that lines delineate.” Stender “never wanted to make a picture of a thing. I wanted to make an actual thing. A thread going in and out of a surface, back and forth, is a real thing.” In her collages and paper quilts, this honest, exposed joinery becomes an equal compositional partner in the finished piece.
Audrey Stone deliberately plays two kinds of line against one another: drawn vs. sewn. “At first glance, the lines appear identical . . .. Upon closer inspection … the thread line has a sculptural element to it, casting shadows and revealing space between it and the paper while the drawn line . . . appears to either rest on top of the paper surface or to sink into it. … [T]he drawn line can be seen as a representation of the 3-dimensional thread line and visa-versa.” Stone enjoys the play between the perfectly plumb thread and the slight vagaries of the lines she draws by hand, the “hits and misses of intent along the way . . . the drawn line reveals the natural instability of the hand, a human element, something I have always aimed to maintain in my work.”
Robert Lansden also celebrates the interplay between the perfect and imperfect. Taking full advantage of the specific effects thread can produce -- layered color, physically interlocking lines, the ability to generate a second drawing on the reverse – Lansden’s stitched work adheres to the principles of his drawing practice: governed by an algorithm, but executed freehand. Lansden sets out with the intention of making a series of identical marks, but welcomes the inevitable divagation from uniformity, because the combination of eye, hand, and brain is, after all, human. “I prefer this task-oriented method of drawing because I never know exactly what will happen. The repetition is meditative and the challenge to adhere to the algorithm keeps me in the moment and allows for spontaneity . . . I am developing a practice, like yoga or a martial art.”
Like Lansden, Emily Barletta speaks of her process as meditative, even healing, a response to the “scars left behind from day-to-day living.” Each “tiny intersection” of thread and paper both slows and records the time of its making: “[B]y hand sewing on paper, each stitch becomes a mark focusing in on one small moment. … The needle allows me to create a mental space slower than the rest of the day, in which I can put the needle into the paper, pull it through, taut, and start again, creating delicate worlds that are softer and kinder than this.”
Where Barletta’s scars are metaphorical, Lorrie Fredette’s use of surgical sutures alludes directly to moments of sudden violence to the body -- both the initial wound and the surgical repair. Her drawings exist in a state of expectation: skin and muscle held taut so the body’s own stitching can take place. This passage between injury and healing is transitory: surgical sutures will be cut away or dissolve; the patient will be restored, perhaps altered by some form of scar, a permanent reminder of the unidirectionality of our lives.
Susan Walsh often uses thread and shadow to mark the passage of time by recording the changing position of the winter sun. During a residency in Caylus, France, a constant fog subverted her original intent of charting the movement of the sun, so instead she began a “collaboration” with the time embodied in the walls of 12th-century building (which had been converted to a school in the 1920s). “Time seemed to expand and contract. The expressive walls were made of the original plaster with marks made by students, workers, and former inhabitants of the property.” In sharp focus in front of the vellum and blurred behind it, the threads suggest fresh marks layered over old.
A sense of layered architectural history informs Emily Hass’s “String/Nail” compositions. Her use of vintage papers evokes not blueprints of future buildings but instead the records of vanished structures. She uses a thread line to map what she calls “ghost building sites,” the vestigial traces of former habitations delineated on the walls left standing after a building is demolished. These thread lines “visually echo the loss of three-dimensional space by creating a two-dimensional memorial of disappearing architecture.”
August Ventimiglia uses an actual construction tool, snap line (string coated with chalk) to create his drawings. Like Lansden, Ventimiglia repeats a single action over and over, welcoming different results. Each drawing records the force of the impact of the snap line, the process of facture embedded in the result. His lines can be a single sharp thunderclap or a soft, hazy hum. Ventimiglia calls this process “percussive drawing,” and we experience it as much aurally as visually: in the ambient traces of chalk haloing the line, we feel the reverberations of a plucked string, a visual correlative of the disturbance of air we perceive as sound.
Where Ventimiglia’s work documents the energy of its making, Daniel G. Hill’s “Wheatstone Bridge” drawings, based on 19th-century electrical diagrams, represent the transit of electrical energy itself. Asserting their presence on both sides of the translucent sheet, the red and gray threads “move through the circuit as alternating current would flow, each taking a different route through the diamond shaped parallel branches of the circuit. By piercing the polyester sheet, the threads exchange places—front to back—as they flow in opposite or alternating directions.”
Tenesh Webber captures states of energy – both stored and dissipated -- in photograms of threads held under tension and released. Webber stretches and layers thread on a frame to create “rhythmic, intuitive compositions” that explore the full range of thread’s behavior as line, both “organic and rectilinear,” moving from taut and plumb to wavering and loosely tangled. Laying this “plate” onto photographic paper in the darkroom, she exposes each image five times, allowing chance to play a role, as the threads reposition themselves between prints.
Trained as a physicist, Chris Arabadjis shares Webber’s commitment to controlled experimentation. He likens his method to “experimentalists creating conditions and observing phenomena as they are allowed to happen.” Using string loaded with ink or paint, Arabadjis is interested in “harnessing basic properties of the medium to create shapes in ways that mimic the way nature creates forms.” Arabadjis refers to D’Arcy Thompson’s classic, “On Growth and Form”: Thompson “theorized that the shape of living things is determined by basic physical forces like surface tension and friction that operate during transport of matter or energy . . . [a]] braided string loaded with paint and dragged across a surface of varying degrees of dampness creates patterns with similar properties.” This action alone may determine the composition, or he may work into the fluid shapes with drawings that reflect his interest in string theory.
The transport of energy is apparent in Takeshi Arita’s 2- and 3-dimensional thread drawings. Arita exploits the physicality of thread to convey enormous tension in a very small area. We feel the tug and pull across a few inches of sewing thread as viscerally as in his large-scale installations of thick cord anchored to walls, floor, and ceiling and lashed tight across a room.
“Passing Through” also inaugurates Schema Projects’ outdoor sculpture space. During a residency in the Midwest, Barbara Campisi began each day with a slow, meditative walk in a nearby meadow where she discovered thread-like reeds with bulbous forms she later learned were created by insect larvae. She captures that specific larval moment by casting the reed forms in resin and doubling them in a mirror, creating an illusory space that invites the viewer to investigate it from many vantage points.