Anne M Bray is Stitching the World
Written by Genie Davis
Artist Anne M Bray is creating a crowd-sourced mapping project that takes viewers on a global trip even during pandemic times. She began her project Stitching the World in October 2019, inspired by artist and weaver Sarah Haskell’s crowd-sourced projects.
Bray says “I asked the public these four questions: First, ‘Where are you from?’ Second, ‘Where are you now?’ Third, ‘Where do you want to go?’ And fourth, ‘What is the color of your journey?’”
In order to plot the answers, she relates “I rearranged the world alphabetically, and stitched the answers with embroidery thread. It really took off when I included it in my installation at the Start Up LA Art Fair, in February 2020.” At that point, she had collected 115 responses. “The act of slowly stitching was a godsend during March and the beginning of LA’s stay at home mandate,” Bray says.
The artist explains that what project she’s working on always goes beyond a single piece. “Whatever it is I’m doing, I like to work in a series,” she reports.
She works in a wide range of different mediums, and her favorite material changes with each project. “It’s always the one I’m currently deploying/obsessing on,” she laughs. “Currently, I’m rediscovering various fiber arts that I reveled in during high school: quilting, embroidery, weaving. Handwork excites my senses – since about 2012, I’d become very tied up in digital creation and was missing the joy of tactility.”
In today’s world, with lack of physical contact being part of these pandemic times, the tactile materials she is currently utilizing are especially engaging. And speaking of the pandemic, Bray notes that her work has changed a bit. “I’ve become more experimental and improvisational, a direct result of Kristine Schomaker’s Call and Response project. I’ve participated in every round – I’m addicted – and every time I end up coming up with something new.”
She just completed Call and Response Round 6, which she approached differently than past, random collaborative efforts. “This time, I prearranged a threesome – usually it’s a randomly chosen pair, with two other fiber artists. It will be a wild ride.”
Her current work resembles weaving, but she is working in paper. “I started the paper weavings January 2019, as a morning meditation when I got to the day job,” she reports. Bray designs prints for mass-market underwear and loungewear. “I was using reject pattern printouts.”
However, when COVID-19 isolation began, her materials changed. “I started using ephemera from around the house: safety envelopes, AAA maps, candy bags, etc. Then I found a box of strips cut for an old project.”
The strips came from a 1976 series, Veils. For that series, Bray created silkscreened monoprints – single prints with different combinations of screens/colors. Currently, the strips she’s using are from color laser printed copies of what she terms her “good prints” from that series, prints which were created for an exhibition in 2009. Currently, she’s weaving “units” to be combined into a larger piece.
While Bray insists she isn’t consciously aware of how past more traditional plein air landscapes and fashion patterns blend into her more experimental work, the mesmerizing quality of each of her works, no matter how disparate in style, holds steady.
Drawing in oils and pastels, her landscapes are haunting and evocative, shaping their own sorts of patterns from the natural scenes.
“I love to get out of LA to lonely stretches of highway. I definitely get an emotional response to wide open spaces and lurid sunrises and sunsets, which shows up in my landscapes. Beyond that, I’m still working on figuring out my need for solo road trips. I’d rather drive than fly,” she says.
Bray has been interested in patterns and repeats in her work since the 70s. As she puts it “when the Pattern and Decoration movement was all the rage.” Whether her patterns are figurative empty landscapes or weavings of many materials, stitched maps or digital art, her complex works pull viewers into a new, minutely observable and compelling world.
Currently, she’s gathering responses for Stitching the World II. Her easy-to-answer four questions can be found at this link.