Week 11 | Artist Conversation: Caryn Aasness

Caryn Aasness is in her final year at Long Beach State as an undergrad, working toward her BFA in Fibers. She has an exhibit at the Merlino Gallery at LBSU, with a visual title that you see in the first attached picture below. After graduation, Caryn hopes to work with designing textiles and wallpapers.

Caryn’s entire exhibit is complied of a series of quilt-like pieces that convey a hidden message that can be decoded in a grid found next to each quilt, made of different colored thread. Each color of thread represents a different letter, creating a different column that can be seen in the quilts, and each message can be read/decoded by reading the grid vertically, rather than horizontally. The grids that viewers use are reflected in the grids that can be seen in the artist’s weaving. The colors that the artist used are very bright, but at the same time have a very warm and inviting feel about them. The main piece of the exhibit is the only piece that contains an explicit message that can be read without decoding, which reads “TO CALL IT CUTE IS TO MISUNDERSTAND”.

When speaking to the artist after reading her artist statement, I had asked her if the basis for this exhibit had stemmed from feminist thought, specifically with the idea of breaking the dichotomies that are so prevalent in society. The main heading of Caryn’s artist statement reads “ARE YOU COMFORTABLE?”, recognizing the fact that the societal structures in America are created to make certain groups of people comfortable, and it is only if you fit into these groups that you are allowed to be comfortable enough to move through society with no worry, no struggle. The artist’s statement is that by questioning these structures, by looking at them differently and re-creating them, by understanding that her pieces are more than just “cute” and really decoding and realizing what the literal underlying message in each piece is, we are then looking at what really matters. Many of the messages that I did manage to decode contained messages that reminded me a lot of feminist discourse, such as the statement “nothing of me is original i am the combined effort of everyone i have ever known”. The idea of illustrating these statements by weaving them into the fabric is to showcase how the artist is able to use text in relation to text and weaving in order to convey a message, rather than just explicitly saying it. The work that one has to engage in to figure out what the message says gives it more meaning than just reading words stitched onto a fabric would. It takes something as unnoticeable, as regular as a piece of fabric on a wall, and recreates it to be something of immense importance, it turns it into a message.

Personally, I love exhibitions that have anything to do with feminist thought. Feminist art has to be one of my favorite things in the world period, so this exhibit in particular resonated with me very heavily. Normally, I wouldn’t approach a textile exhibition with too much excitement, just because textiles and weaving aren’t really the most aesthetically pleasing to my eyes, but in this particular situation, I guess that was the point of it all. With that being said, I feel as if the artist really did accomplish what she set out to accomplish with this exhibit, as far as her message goes. For me personally, this message spoke volumes. I won’t lie and say that it wasn’t the main piece, the only piece with an explicit message that drew me into the exhibit, but it was definitely the artist statement as well as the main concept and message of the entire body of work together that made me fall in love with it.

And I thank Caryn Aasness for that.

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