After a hot Texas summer, heading off to Iceland sounds refreshing. And that’s exactly what Amy Revier plans to do. The soon-to-be SMU grad recently earned a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Fellowship and plans to further her study of textiles in Iceland with artist Hildur Bjarnadóttir. She discusses how textiles fit into her overall artistic vision, her interest in Iceland and her upcoming show at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary as part of this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:
Amy Revier: I grew up around textiles. My mother had a small collection of children’s garments, and I grew up around her sewing. And my dad works in psychology, and I kind of got a conceptual framework from him. … I ended up starting a line of clothing [in high school] called Revier. It was 12 naturally made, kind of couture like, more sculptural women’s garments. I showed that at Lora Reynolds Gallery in Austin and it ended up being very successful to my surprise. I thought about going into the fashion industry instead of going the art route. … I took a semester and went to Parsons School of Design in New York, and I took some fashion courses there just to get a perspective on what was going on with that. And I wasn’t really impressed. It’s very commercialized … It’s a very shady line of [textiles] being more associated with craft. There’s a long history of textiles being an object of labor, of feminine domestication, and it’s kind of a scary line when you’re involved in art, because you have those associations already built in. But I found it to be intriguing, so I’ve just kind of gone with it.
A&S: So is it important to be known as an artist rather than a crafter?
A.R.: That’s a question that I’m not really putting a firm stamp on. Right now, I’m kind of riding the fence between lots of different worlds – fashion, and with my art practice, I do sculpture that’s kind of an overarching umbrella. The sculpture extends itself into performance, video – which is often the documentation of the performances – photography, text – I write a lot, and the text is always a component of the sculpture/performance work. And sometimes even sound. So I end up using a lot of different materials, and the sculptures often are made of textiles. I’m a little bit away from what’s been popular – knitting and the crochet craze – and I’m actually going to much older practices such as weaving.
A&S: What is it about weaving that interests you?
A.R.: I find it a very, very interesting process, because it’s very ritualistic. … The setup of the loom just to make the thing you’re wanting to make can take weeks. And you really have to sit with it, and you’re threading every single strand into a harness, and it’s a really intense process. I’m interested in that, because your mind ends up straddling a different kind of place when you’re in that process of weaving. It’s more of a stream of conscious thing, but you’re really focused. You just shut out everything else.
A&S.: It sure seems like that takes a lot of patience.
A.R.: I write a lot, and my most recent work has been about hibernation. There’s a really nice line in the Invisible Man that says, “Hibernation is the covert preparation for a more overt action.” And I thought that was really a nice definition of what I do in my weaving. To make work, you’ve got to prepare. And then all the sudden you have something. That process of forcing someone to go into the internal – even if it’s just for a second, or to have an internal dialogue – is what interests me, and what the performances are often about. The practice of weaving really informs my other work.
A&S: So what made you want to go to Iceland for your Fulbright Fellowship?
A.R.: Iceland has a very interesting history with textiles. Even their current kindergartners – boys and girls – learn traditional methods of weaving, knitting, hand stitching. And so there’s a familiarity and a common dialogue about textiles that every Icelander has as an adult. So I’m interested in that. And I also met a woman [Hildur Bjarnadóttir] when she was a visiting artist at SMU and we got along very well, and I proposed to her that I could be her studio assistant.
A&S: So have you been listening to a lot of Björk these days to get ready for your trip?
A.R.: A lot of Americans have two associations with Iceland: Björk and Sigur Ros. I’ve listened to both of them, and I actually very much like both of them. I’m really excited – I’ve heard that Iceland has an incredible music and creative community, in particular in Reykjavik, which is where I will probably spend a lot of my time.
A&S. You’ve also got a show opening at the MAC on Saturday, correct?
A.R.: Yeah, it’s a group show. It’s curated by Charissa Terranova, the director of CentralTrak. It’s called Tigersprung. It’s going to be an interesting show, because it’s the first show that I’ve been in, and I think that Dallas has really had, that has a very strong relationship between fashion and art. All of the people who are in it are artists, but they work in a very close relationship to fashion, clothing, textiles and the body. … I’m actually going to be doing a performance through the duration of the exhibition. So I will be in there every Saturday working for three to four hours on an ongoing piece. Essentially, I’m going to be typing. I’m going to be working on a text piece.
A&S: So what’s the connection between the environment and the performance?
A.R.: You know, that’s going to be an interesting one. I think the connection between the environment and the performance is that the text will be my only way to communicate with the audience. The whole thing is an experiment, and that’s the interesting part. I don’t know exactly what will happen, but I assume because I’ve done a performance like this in the past, that the text will literally be about that tension. Between art and fashion, myself and the audience. … because everyone else’s work in there is more sculptural, I think my text piece will hint at what Charissa is interested in about the show: that tension. And my relationship between myself and the audience while the show is happening will manifest itself through that text.
A&S: This interest you have in the tension between being an artist and working in more commercial pursuit seems like something that will continue to play out for you. As you look at your career going forward, what are your thoughts on straddling that line?
A.R.: That’s a good question. I’ve thought a lot about that. I think what will end up happening for me is what’s starting to happen right now. I end up weaving these long, 100-inch long woven structures that are basically woven rectangles. And then I take those woven rectangles and make kind of a head wrap or some kind of body wrap – something to perform in and with. But at the same time, and this is kind of a secret, what I often do with those performance wraps is that I then take them and end up wearing them around in a more normal way. And what’s interesting to me is that they really work as both. I think, because I haven’t seen a lot of people do this before, that there is very strong potential for those woven things to have a performance wear life, and then turn around and have another life as a more functional garment. If there’s a market for that, it’s a small market perhaps. But if you mine it correctly, and introduce people into that way of seeing the versatility of the textiles – or the art-as-fashion, fashion-as-art relationship – that starts to work for people.
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.