Kingston Gallery artist Erica Licea-Kane discusses her upcoming exhibition, Half Spaces:
The fact that these works are made with acrylic paint, but have the texture and appearance of textiles is so engaging. There is a heavy quality, like a warm blanket or quilt, in many of the pieces. What types of textiles have influenced you or are you drawn to?
I have always been attracted to fiber art that is mixed-media oriented. I never saw myself as a weaver or maker of utilitarian objects even though in both undergraduate and graduate school I was well trained in a variety of textile and dying techniques. Technique was always a means to an end or a way to get a certain effect or surface quality that I desired. I actually wove my painting surfaces up until about 1999. I would weave small panels of fabric that I would then sew together, attach to the wall, stretch into the shape I wanted, cut holes in the fabric and then stiffen it on the wall. That would then become my canvas or painting surface. This way of working allowed me to have interesting edges, something that has carried through to my current studio practice. I would also make handmade nets that became scaffolding for my grid based compositions. Today I continue to work with grids that I make with the extruded acrylic medium or with burned patterns on the initial surface.
I really do think of myself as being an abstract painter from a weavers point of view. I continue to use all of the elements that are attributed to textiles. Grids, layers, transparencies, repeat patterns, surface, color, edges (selvages), are all components that are found in both using the loom and in textile design in general. Even basket structures are about repeated actions that create a built three dimensional structure. I realized early on that I was an additive artist, and naturally build surfaces in many parts.
The heaviness of the surfaces comes from many layers of extruded medium that happen when a surface needs to be resolved. This way of working does not allow me to take parts away from the surface once the medium has dried, so I keep adding to the piece. The many layers gives the edges, especially shaped edges, a roundness that gives the work an “object” quality as they become low reliefs.
I have always been drawn to Amish quilts because of the boldness of the color and the minimal compositions. They become more complicated as you get up close and start to discover the layer of sewn patterning in the fabric. I intend for viewers to get up close to my work to discover the many layers and nuances in the surfaces. I am often asked about the time invested in my work and how they are made. Ultimately, I always think of my paintings as being about time and balance even though they reference aerial views.
There is an interesting intersection between abstract art and fiber arts in your work. Textiles being an arena for women historically to express their creativity. Are there any specific painters or textile artists you are inspired or influenced by? Where would you situate your work in relation to them?
I have always been surrounded by fabric. As a child my mother was always sewing and I spent a lot time with her in fabric stores. I still love the smell of fabric stores. I spent a lot of time going through her button box, creating embroideries and looking at my Grandmothers linens, stored away in a special cedar chest. There were always Craft Horizon magazines lying about the house, so I was very aware of the craft mediums at a very young age. My parents were both professional artists, so I grew up with “makers” and I was surrounded by art materials. As a college student in a textile program, I spent a lot of time making samples while I learned various textile techniques that were wide ranging. When I got out of school the first works that I made involved using hand sewn gauze that eventually moved on to working on hand-dyed and painted surfaces with layers of machine sewing. Later on I went back to hand-sewing as the work became more developed. I really can’t think of a time in my life when fabric wasn’t a part of it.
The artists that I have looked at for a long time and that I always describe as my “happy place” are both Lee Bontecou and Alberto Burri. They both have a brilliance to the way that they mix media and both artists used a lot of fabric in their surfaces. More specifically, I respond to Burri’s minimal compositions and Bontecou’s sewn reliefs. Bontecou is still working today and unfortunately Burri passed away in 1995.
Erica Licea-Kane: Half Spaces is on view in the Kingston Main Gallery, Susan Alport: Close Relations is on view in the Center Gallery and Mira Cantor: Under Siege is on view in the Kingston Project Space March 4 through March 29, 2020. An opening reception will be held on Friday, March 6, 5-8pm.