Art Hysterical: Errors and Approximations
April 3 – 28, 2016
China Marks makes process-directed constructed drawings with idiosyncratic figuration and invented dialogue, uncanny dramas about the human condition.
There's something about this medium—by which I mean using an industrial sewing machine to draw with thread into fabric, and since 2013, also using a computerized embroidery machine and CAD software—that suits me very well, perhaps because it is such a makeshift, hybrid art form, employing materials and machines meant for the manufacture and ornamentation of clothing, along with hand tools not customarily used for drawing. I have never been a sewer, but having worked for many years as a sculptor, I am an experienced tool and machine user. Of all the people buying sewing machines, fabric and thread, needles and trim in the garment district, on the Lower East Side, elsewhere in the city, out of catalogues or online, I may be the only one making process-directed drawings.
This medium has such richness that it will take the rest of my life to unpack its possibilities. It makes use of everything I have ever done or known. I find the very process of making a sewn drawing deeply interesting. Though it is very hard work, with thousands of knots to be tied and interminable doing, undoing, and re-doing until I get it right, I have given myself over to it, becoming in effect as much an instrument of the process as any of my machines.
My current ongoing series of altered paintings—that is, tapestry approximations of paintings (woven on computerized looms) I buy, fuse to double-weight linen and transform by my usual means of collaging and sewing/drawing-into—began entirely by chance in the summer of 2014, when I found a tapestry copy of a late Renaissance painting of the Madonna in a fabric store in downtown Miami. By trial and error I figured out how to deal with it. There was something magical about simultaneously harnessing and subverting the formal structure and conventions of Renaissance painting. The results of my intervention were so spectacular and uncanny that I just had to try again.
Numerous paintings copied digitally onto tapestry are available for purchase online. I don't care who the painter is or what century he lived in. What matters is that a significant portion of the formal structure, color, complexity and intention of the original painting survives its translation via computerized loom into tapestry, so that I have something to start with. By now I’ve made drawings from some of the best ones. But there is more to come.
China Marks was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. She earned a B.F.A. in Sculpture from the Kansas City Art Institute and and an M.F.A. in Sculpture from Washington University in St. Louis. In 1976, she moved to New York City.
She now lives and makes art in Long Island City, NY, making process-directed drawings and one-of-a-kind books. Her work has been shown in galleries and museums in the United States and Europe. She has received numerous grants and fellowships, most recently a 2011 fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, which named her a Gregory Millard Fellow, and a 2013 grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.