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Occasional Labor


Occasional Labor, 16mm film sequence, 1991           

original film by Matthew Drescher and Valerie Constantino          

link to video HERE          




six essays
on the impermanent disposition of art, life and textile


Years ago I wrote an essay entitled Domestic Gestures in consideration of the ephemeral nature of domestic activities, identifying those processes as an integrated art form. It was the first expression of my inclination towards an interdisciplinary study of domestic culture and materiality in relation to impermanence. 
           Subsequently, I wrote two essays, each a reflection of specific aspects of these ideas. The first one entitled Threadlore (Surface Design Journal, Fall, 1994) considered mythological and cosmological allusions to textile processes such as spinning and weaving in relation to fundamental structures of matter. Textile: An Event in Time (Fiberarts, Sept / Oct, 1995), examined the works of several textile artists whose work underscores process as a discrete creative element. 
           During this period, I made a short 16mm film for an installation entitled Occasional Labor (link to video HERE), described in an essay of the same title. That installation along with those initial writings led to these expanded texts, presented here under the same canopy: Occasional Labor.  
           I am in pursuit of the connections between my experience of textile and subjects that penetrate the fugitive qualities of being.  Subjects that have emerged along the way include, but are not limited to: traditional mythologies, multi-cultural philosophies, metaphysics, modern science, particularly recent development in physics, and time-based and mutable art forms including collage, installation, video and performance. In addition to the writing, each essay includes citations and images from a wide selection of sources. 
          The scope of these collected documents has seemed far-reaching, like a vast, immeasurable tapestry. My understanding of these subjects continues to evolve in relation to world events and personal states of affair. All the while, textile offers an apt and fertile metaphor for the tangles of material existence, global economies, environmental degradation and the indeterminacies of everyday life. Following this Introduction and Prelude, a PDF document for each individual composition* is linked by title.




I dwell in Possibility -

A fairer House than Prose -

More numerous of Windows -

Superior - for Doors - 

Of Chambers as the Cedars -

Impregnable of Eye -

And for an Everlasting Roof 

The Gambrels of the Sky - 

Of Visitors - the fairest -

For Occupation - This -

The spreading wide my narrow Hands

To gather Paradise -
                                    - Emily Dickenson



Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (attr: Guilio Cartari)               
Angel with Superscription, Ponte Sant’ Angelo, Rome, 1669-71               


          At times I seem to be someone other than the one I seem most often to be. This one - romantic, imaginative or brooding and rambling. As a child my activities were a bit like those of a theatrical designer. I made clothing for a cast of characters: doll babies, stuffed kitties, paper brides and their flat grooms. With plain white drawing paper and a sweep of colored crayons, I made backdrops, interior furnishings and accessories; draperies with matching upholstery and carpets. Like a baroque architect, I deliberated over the effects of place upon figures and objects, changing and arranging in consideration of the most dramatic effects of every ambient detail relative to everything else.
         Besides such juvenile leanings, I have alternately throughout time and place, been otherwise engaged as a gardener, chamber-maid, K-12 substitute teacher, chain-saw operator, truck-stop waitress, trade floor gopher, handy-person, artist’s model, and so on. Life asserts itself with uncertainty: the self, a mist. Fluffs of white or black stacks of clouds in variable blue-grey skies. Tempest on the horizon.

         Still, the call to a creative life like a length of crepe de chine is as strong as it is fluid. Wrapped then, in the allegory of textile and the ambiguity of text, the impermanent events of life and self take form. And today I am an artist -- a poet or a conjurer, a weaver of words and a catcher of dreams.


Dickenson, Emily; #657, The Complete Works of Emily Dickenson, Ed. Johnson, Thomas H., pg. 327

Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (attributed to his students, Guilio Cartari), Angel with Superscription, bridge at Ponte Sant’ Angelo, Rome, 1669-71, original image: ©Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons, Attribution 2.5 Generic



Six Essays (linked by title)

A Language of Simple Twists

The Irrational Qualities of Substance

Occasional Labor: On the Impermanent Disposition of Art, Life and Textile

My Liquid Self: The Performative Textile

Sad Cloth: The Material of Melancholy

Threadbare: Upon the Dematerialized Self

and: epilogue

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