As the third wave of a deadly pandemic crashes through the nation, a painter sets up a storefront studio in a landmarked Lower Manhattan building that has served as a communications hub for nearly a century. Surrounded by stacks of folded cloth, she is visible through the window to passersby as she works with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine, cutting up and stitching together fragments of curtains, bedsheets, dish towels, women’s suits, embroidered tablecloths, brocade upholstery, scarves, men’s long sleeve shirts, knitted blankets and countless other remnants from the realm of everyday textiles. Frequently interspersed in this panoply of thrift-store finds are cut-up pieces of her own gestural paintings—invariably painted on recycled domestic fabrics—which she can sometimes be seen making on the floor or walls of the space. Although most of the fabrics the artist utilizes derive from the shopping-mall America of her childhood in the 1970s and 1980s, her greater inspiration are the mobile cloth-and-wood shelters used by nomadic peoples of Central Asia. Feeling overwhelmed by the violence and intolerance that has been deluging her country for years, and anguished at the invisible threat of disease all around her, she no longer feels it is sufficient to make paintings to hang on walls where they can be looked at from a polite distance. She wants to be able to offer something different, a more intimate rapport between the body of the artwork and the body of the viewer. What she envisions as she meticulously cuts and stitches and sews is the painting as a room, an envelope, a blanket, a shell, a cave, an embrace, a home, a refuge, if only for a moment or an hour. Once her many hundreds or possibly even thousands of pieces will be assembled into a single enormous cloth, filling the entire storefront with miles of stitching and a kaleidoscope of colors, patterns and textures, something will be generated, she hopes, for whoever enters, once it is safe to do so, the enveloping mosaic of her painting-tent, something, she hopes, like love.
(Heather Bause Rubinstein)