Susan Taber Avila

The crux of my artistic career has been the creation and exhibition of Textile Art-creative work that makes use of the manipulation and configuration of textiles to enhance perception of contemporary culture. I have participated in several solo and group exhibitions around the world and my work has been published in several periodicals, catalogues, and books.

Textile Art bridges many disciplines, linking craft, art, design, and technology through the research, creation, and presentation of material culture. With my work I promote sustainability through the reclamation of pre-consumer and post-consumer waste; I utilize technology through digital textile printing and the exploration of new materials and techniques; I invoke history and ethnographic influences through the exploration of traditional hand processes, and I promote global awareness of textile art, surface design, and fashion through liaisons with an international audience.

Textile Art is a dynamic, fluid field that uses materials and/or techniques associated with textiles to create a conceptual statement. Textiles are intrinsically a part of everyone’s material culture. Unless you live in a nudist colony (and even there you likely sleep with fabric) not a day goes by without touching, feeling, or seeing textiles. Significant in the long history of textile production is the application of decorative content to imbue objects with meaning. Status, culture, politics, and technology, are among many functional expressions embedded within the language of textile art. My own work explores new methods and materials to not only develop new textile structures but to interlock meaning within the structure.

While stitching is often used for surface embellishment (embroidery) or joining materials, my work is unique in that I simultaneously develop both the structure and surface of an object through the stitching process. In the late 1980s I invented a technique for creating a solid, three-dimensional structure entirely out of thread. I have since developed innovative, openwork fabric structures. For over 20 years I have worked with water-soluble fabric (polyvinyl alcohol–PVA) to create webs, nets, and lace. When the base material dissolves and only the stitching remains, the threads twist together in surprising, random formations and create new fabric. I am a major innovator of this technical process and my work is often recognized for its unique properties.

I am committed to embroidery and stitching because these ubiquitous methods, prevalent throughout history, still have something new to say. The stitch creates a mark, adds color, and defines the structure. Stitching allows me to piece together remnants from the fashion and interior design industries and create objects of beauty from textiles that might otherwise end up in a landfill. I utilize the dissolvable substrate to recycle and reuse discarded materials giving new life to these scraps within a stitched organization.

Within this technological framework, I have created sardonic series and objects around conceptually specific themes. For example, Byzantine Las Vegas explores the cultural intersections of Las Vegas and Byzantium; Shoe Stories reflects on the implied meanings of shoes, their associations, and stereotypes; Fragmentation, Language, & Memory tries to makes sense of the bombardment of daily information from electronic media, and Oh Naturale includes work inspired by nature, especially the organization and perception of nature by humans.