Illustration: Catherine Kleeman. Identity Crisis, 2009.
Illustration: Catherine Kleeman. Identity Crisis (detail), 2009.
Catherine Kleeman is a textile artist that uses the idea of layers as a central theme to her work. It would be more exact to say perhaps that Kleemen builds up whole systems of multi-layers and even layers within layers, producing work that has a wealth of detail and exactness to it that corresponds to hours of labour.
The work is both colourful and vibrant, but what makes it especially so is the fact that she is able to dye her own fabrics to her own specifications. However, the relatively simple process of dying fabric for her own needs is not enough for this multi-layered artist. Kleeman also hand paints, stamps, silk screens and batiks the fabrics as well as using various mark making techniques which make her fabrics well and truly her own.
Illustration: Catherine Kleeman. Family Reunion, 2008.
Illustration: Catherine Kleeman. Family Reunion (detail), 2008.
It is the mark making that perhaps gives us a hint that there is more to Kleemans work than just textile art, though that would be adequate for most. The mark making has turned her textile art into a form of fine art painting. From a distance, the textile pieces look truly to be in the realm of abstract fine art painting. It is only on closer inspection that the numerous individual fabrics and threads become visible. Mark making is one of the basic tools of an artist and Kleeman uses it well to express herself within her chosen medium.
Layering is never an easy option in any creative medium, as juxtapositions of differing colour tones and textures are notoriously difficult to blend and mould as one. In the pieces shown in this article, all produced within the last two years, Kleeman has used two separate levels of layering, the much more subtle tones of the background composition and the much more strident abstract shapes of the foreground layers. These two systems of layers are then, in their turn, blended together so that the composition does not allow one ground to dominate another, but also without the background and foreground becoming indistinguishable. This is not an easy task to perform.
Illustration: Catherine Kleeman. Hidden Agendas, 2008.
Illustration: Catherine Kleeman. Hidden Agendas (detail), 2008.
Every aspect of Kleemans work is finely balanced. Her system of multi-layering has to take into account the many elements that go into each piece. From the overall importance of the composition, to being acutely aware of both colour tone and texture and the vital role they play in bringing together the piece. However, on top of this she also has to be aware of the medium that she is working in, and has to be sympathetic towards the differing qualities that textile art can bring to a piece. Having said that she also has to tie together elements within that textile medium such as quilting and collage, and to balance their contribution.
I believe that she fully succeeds in her finely tuned balancing act and that her work expresses a rare fine art painting quality to the medium of textile art while still maintaining the essence of textiles, which is a very difficult and complicated process to achieve.
Illustration: Catherine Kleeman. Window Paint, 2008.
Illustration: Catherine Kleeman. Window Paint (detail), 2008.
Catherine Kleeman has her own comprehensive website where many more examples of her work can be seen. The website can be found here. She also has a blog called Fiberstudio where you can keep updated as to the latest work produced and her working methods, the site can be found here.
Kleeman has been exhibiting regularly across the USA since the mid-1990s. She has a number of future exhibitions booked for the rest of this year and into 2010. To go along and see her work, check for dates and venues all of which can be found on her website.
All images were used with the kind permission of the artist.
Illustration: Catherine Kleeman. Blue Moon, 2008.