Date of Award
Level of Access Assigned by Author
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Susan L. Smith
Second Committee Member
José Arturo Camacho
Third Committee Member
Additional Committee Members
Intermedial artworks are deemed effective when they draw from the roots of the most basic, universal elements of materiality, concept, sensation, and/or experience, melding disparate elements into an inextricable novelty. As hybrid artifacts, they take up an unusual degree of substance in one dimension or another, and can at times be difficult to categorize, describe, or document. Nonetheless, the potential for intermedial expressions to resonate with their viewership is strengthened by the depths to which the artist ventures, and through such a process the most far-reaching and complexly interconnected issues of our time can be made approachable on the personal level.
The work documented and realized herein developed from the idea of addressing the issue of global textile waste on a personal level. Inspired by the need to perform basic clothing repair, I began exploring textile-based art practices during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, studied them formally at the University of Maine from Fall ’20 to the time of publication, and greatly benefitted from the culture of ecological ethics, forest management, and community-engaged art flourishing at and around the University. My path of research-oriented artistic production has led me to participate directly in many facets of the reuse economy of central Maine and beyond; at times I have operated as a volunteer in a Catholic mission’s thrift store, and as an employee of a donation-based shop. I have both attended and hosted workshops, “skill-shares”, and other events in a variety of settings, from guest presenter at a public high school to spontaneous runway model at a fashion show for upcycled streetwear. Focusing primarily on ubiquitous textile artifacts, such as the graphic t-shirt, in conjunction with universally attainable and applicable projects such as tote bags, pockets, written messages, and drawstring pouches, I have developed an artistic practice geared towards inspiring in the viewer/wearer a newfound appreciation for textile materiality as a function of their embodied experience—ideally empowering them to begin independently addressing their textile footprint. The body of artwork associated with my studies culminated in a gallery-centered event, named You Are What You Wear, where participants were encouraged to wear, and offered from a shared selection, garments with visible repair work and customization—thus allowing an imaginative glimpse at the potential for healing and self-expression through textile work. With the abundance of textile material available for those of us on this side of the manufacturing cycle, the means by which we address the inefficiencies and injustices of global textile production cannot be solely derived from a sustainability mindset; there must also be celebration of abundance: freedom to make mistakes, generosity, gratitude, and discovery. Through analysis of my work and the concepts which support it, I intend to show that worn textiles and the associated actions of repair are inherent parts of the human experience, and how creative work can encourage a more mindful and harmonious relationship with textile materiality. Aided by a series of informal interviews conducted over the last two years, I will also present analysis derived from a variety of perspectives that I hope will show that the reuse economy as found across donation centers, second hand retail, volunteer labor, sewing workshops, and other social structures, is a viable and important lens through which one can perceive a community.
Greenleaf, Walter J. IV, "You Are What You Wear: A Vital Materialism of Textiles" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3852.