Small Acts Come Together
to-gather: installation and sculptures by Debbie Carlson at Flux Art Space
through March 23, 2019
Flux Art Space, Long Beach
Written by Jaqueline Bell Johnson
Often the goal with a process such as sewing or knitting is perfection. Each stitch aligns into flawless rows, each knot an impeccable modular building block that works in unity to create a surface. The body takes on a rhythmic motion, inhales and exhales in time with the hand.
The works of Debbie Carlson, however, are quite the opposite.
The thoughts, memories, and moods of the artist embed themselves within each repetition of her hand, pushing the needle, pulling the thread… These stitches are singular moments; imperfect if not unique. As they accumulate, a path forms traversing the surfaces of paper and fabric. Fiber is gathered into structure, the ideas embedded create form, gain substance, become tangible. Each stitch is flawed, honest. For Carlson, the labor is less in the fingers, almost automated in their task but resides in the head and the heart. Making becomes a method of counting moments. The artwork presents the viewer with the travels of the mind while the hands produce.
Her installation Common Thread channels shibori practices, but with a more permanent intention of containing, sheltering, restraining the objects therein. The collective nature of this process consumes discards from others’ consumption, giving them a permanent home, simultaneously stripping these objects of their previous identity and potential harm.
Formally, Common Thread is a composition of dots and lines. The clusters of wrapped lids speckle organically into rifts throughout the fabric. The suspension’s tension on the piece make for series of taut string that jut outward and upward to the walls and the ceiling. This contrast is by no means static, soft, or comforting. The fabric gets riled into this action that causes the viewer’s eye to jump and swirl following diagonal paths in and out of the piece. The subdued rainbow palette denote the fabric’s origin: discarded samples.
The intimate scale of the remaining works on view highlight the drama of process. These works by contrast become talismans, ritualistic objects whose power comes from their careful creation. Hung has threads of intense color wrapping, bunching, and gathering fabric into bundles. The bound form is then suspended in the sunlight at the front of the gallery and takes on a curious underwater vessel likeness. Loose Ends is a spiral of zip ties, wire, and yarn crocheted into a blue horn curling off the wall. Intertwined is a pile of white wire hangers entangled in a mesh that casts onto the wall with exaggerated tendrils. The hangers are bent and wrapped into a geometric caricature of knots.
In all of her work, Carlson collects these small acts, organizes by compiling them into structures, ideas that take form, gain substance, become tangible. The artwork serve as records of afternoons, of hours lingering upon her thoughts. For the viewer, the work is an authentic, sincere presentation of her state of mind; a generous offer of connection between artist and viewer.