Work-in-progress for upcoming series 
Negative prints with breast pads and nipple covers; photosensitive dye on cotton mull
2018 - ongoing

From correspondence with Meichen Waxer, director of Arts Assembly:

“During the artist residency I did at PLOT as part of the Arts Assembly programming, I divided my time between theoretical and studio research, exploring a new material process involving making photograms on fabric and reading and bringing together content for a pedagogical research stream I’ve called Interiority Complex.

Coming into the PLOT residency, I knew I wanted to experiment with making photograms using synthetic light sensitive dyes, which develop when exposed to the sun. My intention was to apply these dyes on fabric surfaces and use various elements - objects, shadows of objects, and cut outs - as masks and resists to create indexical marks. Thinking of photograms within a textile practice excited me, because this process would allow me to consider signs via both touch and vision (shapes being created by the objects contacting and concealing the fabric) but also produce pattern-signs or motif-signs, rather than pure signs I felt were demanded of me by the “picture”.

I made my first test print by brushing a magenta light sensitive dye on a small piece of cotton mull. On top of the dyed fabric I placed two nipple covers, side by side. The nipple covers were the silicone, beige, flower-shaped variety, with a sticky side to tack onto nipples, and a soft and uniform exterior side to  conceal the nipples under clothing. I took this strange assemblage to the front window of Access and placed it under the sun. I could see the exposed dye beginning to darken as I sat there beside it, and when I was satisfied with the colour I peeked under the nipple covers to discover they had produced wonderful negative prints. I ran to rinse the fabric under cold water as per the dye manufacturer’s instructions and immediately realized this was a mistake - the dye ran and the shapes became blurry.

I made another test print, this time using nipple covers and breast pads on a slightly bigger surface. The breast pads were the large, round, disposable variety that I had used under my bra while my son was still breastfeeding, made to absorb the excess breast milk produced in between feeding sessions and prevent clothing from becoming wet. This time, I exposed the surface to the sun and let it develop a bit, then re-dyed a portion of the surface and moving the objects to create a double-exposure. This didn’t quite work the way I expected in creating clear double-exposures, but I was happy to discover that applying dye during the development process could produce interesting marks.

When I came into the space after a weekend break, I realized that the tests I had left there had continued exposing over the weekend and were now a really dark shade of magenta, the negative shapes had also exposed and the prints had lost their clarity. I had assumed that the little amount of sunlight PLOT received wouldn’t have a drastic affect on the prints, it was nice to know that a slow and long exposure, even with dim light, could produce dramatic results.

After several more tests, I knew that I wanted to do a large print. I gathered my materials, pinned a large piece of cotton mull on a sheet of styrofoam, neither stretching it nor letting it slack. I started brushing on the slightly watered down dye, and realized that at this scale, the fabric was folding over itself in small wrinkles as I was dyeing it. I had to work quite  fast so that the parts I dyed wouldn’t expose before I had a chance to place objects on top. It was a slower process than I thought it would be, taking up far more dye than I expected - which made me wonder if vat dyeing would be a better alternative. However, I was done and grabbed and ran with the set up outside to the alley at the back of Access, where I quickly placed nipple covers and breast pads in a sort of loose grid, and let the exposure process begin. I moved one or two of the breast pads in the middle of the exposure process, and was able to get the double-exposure I wanted this way. I got a beautifully exposed magenta piece of fabric with very clear negative prints from all objects, however I was tempted into giving it a cold rinse, as I didn’t want the dye to stay on and continue being exposed, and of course, ended up washing away some of my dye again (took a mental note of drying the fabric in a dark room first before giving it a wash next time).

The fabric eventually dried, and I hung it up on a string. I really liked the result, and this affirmed my decision to explore this process a bit more towards a series of large scale prints, incorporating many more materials, including cut outs and prints on acetate films used for the masking process. I spent the rest of my time trying to find an alternative to using large amounts of dye to cover surfaces -which would get economically very challenging if I attempted large prints- so I experimented with some vat dyeing by watering down the dye significantly.

The use of nipple covers and breast pads as test objects was an intuitive decision, but carried with it an interest in the relationship between visibility and materiality. These objects, which cover orifices of the body that leak, conceal while they absorb. They point to the management of breasts -which is something, as a woman, I have been dutifully involved in both before and during motherhood. I was interested in bringing these objects, indexically, into the pictorial realm, thinking of the picture itself as something that can have openings and orifices, something that can give and take, show and conceal.

When I started working at PLOT, I had just finished taking down a solo exhibition at the fifty fifty arts collective in Victoria, BC. The exhibition featured large scale drawings made with dyes of various concentrations and states of exhaustion as well as inactive solutions prepared from the indigofera tinctoria (the “true indigo”) plant.

For the last two years or so, dyeing has creeped into my practice, at first as an accompaniment to weaving and other textile processes, and gradually occupying an autonomous role. The dye medium, unlike paint, penetrates the material it is applied to and makes a chemical bond with the fibres rather than sitting on top of the surface. Application of dyes can happen in two distinct ways: direct application of the dye onto the surface of the material (via various drawing or printing processes) or immersion of the material into a dye vat. In textile production with hand, usually it is one or the other application that is used, and the tension between these methods has been a continual source of fascination for me. The technical process of preparing and sustaining dye vats takes a lot of skill; the temporality of the vat, which can be kept for a duration of time, fed and nurtured, and the immersion techniques involved in vat dyeing -such as practices of folding or wrapping cloth before immersion to achieve patterns, or the practice of submerging only certain parts of warp and weft yarns in a certain sequence before the weaving process to achieve patterned tapestries- have allowed me to consider the performative aspects of dyeing. For direct surface application processes, I have experimented with resist methods in layered dyeing, and conventional and self-devised thickeners, to change the consistency of dyes to allow them to be used as inks or paints or for specific applications such as airbrushing.

Textile practices are no doubt having a rise to attention within the sphere of fine arts in the West; one could think of many reasons for that, but I believe that this rise to attention is partly symptomatic of a certain dissatisfaction with the ontology of the artwork that deems the work a closed achievement, a carefully delineated inside from an outside. Whether textile practices (or any other craft practice), when folded into the fine arts practice, can truly remedy this situation is a question that is up for debate, but sometimes pretending creates its own realizations. In my own practice, thinking about pattern and space in textile representations has changed the way I approach pictorial representation in a dramatic way.

In addition to my material research, I was also engaged in a different type of research during this time. I was appointed to teach an upper;level Studio Theory course to third-year undergraduate students at the University of British Columbia in the fall. I had titled the course Interiority Complex and it would revolve around the concepts of interiority and exteriority explored in bodily, psychological, optical and political facets. I wanted to explore how these spatial paradigms had come to describe particular modes of division and regimes of causality in relation to the body, the psyche, the artwork and the art world. I did readings, gave thought to the organization of content and format in relation to the transitioning of students from creating projects with specific assignment parameters to creating artworks of their own.