End of Year Exhibition, 2020

Towelling, Mid Cycle

“But what is life without a towel”
– Mary Henrietta Kingsley (1862-1900) [1]

Currently, I am working with domestic textiles in an exploration of materiality and trace. I tug at invisible threads, entangled in the complexities of family and earthly existence: a multiplicity of response-abilities that both bind and vitalize domesticity, accessed through embodied engagement in repetitive action with the visible, tangible threads of everyday materials.

This installation focuses on the towel as body and trace of relatable story and personal narrative. Each of the works on the wall is a relief sculpture made from a single towel that was gifted to me by various charity shops and business owners who deemed the towels to have reached their end of functional life.

A local specialist in towelling supply and laundry, gifted twenty folded decommissioned white guest towels, of which I performatively refolded and stacked within the exhibition space for the work Twenty folded towels minus one, (see http://www.wendylawson.co.nz/folding-twenty-towels/ ).

My approach to making involves a bodily connection with the physical nature of form. I acknowledge what French theorist Giles Deleuze (1925-1995) refers to as “the infinite fold;” in what I interpret to be a folding of matter that is continually becoming as elements cohabitate, collide, correlate and transform.[2] I also value an ecological perspective on becoming as a process of embodiment; becoming more aware, present and connected with internal and external environments. In this vein, I am encouraged by the writing of American ecofeminist Donna Haraway, urging all earth-bound creatures to become more response-able, to “stay with the trouble”, in caring and knowing and acting, as an ethical duty.[3] I am inspired by feminist artists operating in Aotearoa New Zealand during the 1970’s like Christine Hellier and Pauline Rhodes. Both these artists drew on experiences of the body, language, culture and the surrounding environment. I am also influenced by US-based sculptor Richard Serra’s Verb List Compilation: Actions to Relate to Oneself (1967-1968), and the way in which it enacts transitive verbs that can be explored materially.

Other relevant contemporary artists to influence this work include Paul Lee who also uses everyday objects like towels to create trace and Tara Donavan’s use of significant amounts of the mundane objects that are stacked so that conventional perspectives of them might be transformed.

List of Works (Clockwise, see Figure 1)

  1. Stylist’s own, 2020. Salon towel and glue. 
  2. From stripes, 2020. Small bath towel and glue. 
  3. Hers, 2020. Hers towel and glue. 
  4. Nature’s pillow, shrinking. 2020. Handtowel and glue. 
  5. Communal use, 2020. Guest towel and glue. 
  6. Wriggle room, 2020. Small bath towel and glue.
  7. Bathroom talk, 2020. Bathmat and glue. 
  8. Twenty folded towels minus one, 2020. Folded, stacked white guest towels.
  9. The middle, 2020. Beach towel and glue. 
  10. The edge, 2020. Beach towel trim and glue. 

[1] Kingsley, Mary Henrietta. Travels in West Africa. Washington: National Geographic, 2002.

[2] Deleuze, Gilles. The fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

[3] Haraway, Donna J. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2016.