Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Sandra Brownlee: Departures & Returns Deluxe 4

* This is part four of a multi-part essay about Sandra Brownlee's Deluxe Edition catalogue, Departures and Returns, and my experience with it. I've written the context in plain text and my experience in italics. Read part one here, part two here, and part three here.
Departures & Returns Deluxe Edition by Sandra Brownlee; Photo credit: Jack Ramsdale
Sandra dedicated the Departures and Returns exhibition to her mother Vivian Brownlee and her father Marshall Brownlee. Inserted between the photos of her parents and her dedication essay is a special inclusion of red dot fabric cut from her Dartmouth studio curtains. This is a generous gift, a tactile link between the viewer and Sandra's studio, where she spins straw into gold, or rather, transforms ordinary cotton sewing thread into exquisite woven worlds.


When I visited Sandra's studio in the summer of 2010, I noticed a bare window in the ell of curtains. The studio, located in a former sunroom, is lined with windows on two sides. With the Deluxe Edition in my hands, I am free to touch Sandra's curtain pages. Are they a talisman of her energy that flows freely to unsuspecting viewers? Seeing the lovely curtains on her windows and in this book are one thing, the element of touch is quite another. To my surprise the opaque red dots are flocked and the texture is very pleasurable and comforting. I imagine that the dots form shadows on Sandra's studio walls and floor when the light is right.
Departures & Returns Deluxe Edition by Sandra Brownlee; Photo credit: Jack Ramsdale
A final gift to the fortunate owner of the Departures and Returns Deluxe Edition is a folio containing a distinct one-of-a-kind textile woven by Sandra. Each 5.5" X 7" weaving is a subtle variation on a theme. Some of the owners have framed their weavings, others have left them in the book. Sandra sees them as part of the book. A reminder: 30 Deluxe Editions equals about 20' of weaving (taking into account the thin hand-stitched hems). The woven textiles are an over-the-top act of generosity.


I'm embarrassed to admit that when Sandra loaned me the Deluxe Edition, I assumed that the folio would be empty. Although I slowly and carefully looked through the artist book several times, I didn't open the folio until I was curious about how the folds held it shut. When I gingerly opened it, I gasped. Tucked inside was an original weaving. With profound guilt and pleasure, I held it in my hands. The textile was much stiffer than I expected, it was like a page in itself. The warp and weft were off-white cotton sewing thread with black supplemental weft. To an untrained eye the black lines looked like fine hand embroidery. Being a textile person, I turned it over and looked at the back. In the lower left corner was embroidered the number 717. The top and bottom edges were neat with 1/4" hems that were done in a different weave from the body of the textile. My heart hammered as I contemplated this work of art. I knew that holding a work of Sandra Brownlee's art was a rare opportunity.
Departures & Returns Deluxe Edition by Sandra Brownlee; Photo credit: Jack Ramsdale
Reviewing Sandra Brownlee's Departures and Returns Deluxe Edition was an experiential education with Sandra and her Deluxe Edition as the teacher and me as the student. I took my time to go through it at a glacial pace and reflected on what I saw and felt at each page and inclusion, scribbling notes in the process. During a phone interview, Sandra told the story of each inclusion and this enriched my experience of the book. When I took the Tactile Notebooks and the Written Word workshop from Sandra in June 2011, she taught us to "see and respond." This multi-part essay is evidence that I saw and responded.

2 comments:

iNd!@nA said...

i have so enjoyed this series, thank you

Sally said...

Tonight was the perfect night to sit quietly and read. Thank you Karen!