Generations                                                                                                                         

Preservation carries messages about value and rarity. I am curious about that which survives or endures the passage of time, whether by chance or by deliberate and careful conservation. Preserving both the tangible (objects which have been saved) as well as the intangible (storytelling, beliefs, human experiences) is a theme in much of my early work. Objects or images with seemingly little intrinsic value that are presented or stored with reverence and care question our motives of preservation. My work also implies that the ordinary can be transformed and deemed worthy of keeping.

The intimacy I seek in my pieces depends on engaging the viewer with transformation of surface and materials. Touching, fabricating and shaping fiber is an exciting and compelling process for me, not just a means to an end. I love to take cloth and push it; make it shrink, then expand; become raised up, then recede; become sheer, then opaque. It is a challenge for me to create contrasts, a surface energy or tension that the viewer can sense. Above all, I work the cloth until it bears the humanness – the importance of human touch. It must breathe the hand of the maker.

I have always been interested in language and oral traditions of storytelling. Listening to and recording stories from elderly members of my own family has fueled the content of much of my work from 1990-2000. I was interested in exploring why certain memories, stories and beliefs survive and are revealed and renewed through time. The text imagery is taken from writings of those who have recorded personal accounts, proverbs, or life experiences. The handwriting is photographically transferred by silkscreen so that it retains all of the original character. Early on, I printed text with pigment or dye. Later, I began silkscreening with a mild acid that etches or burns the original handwriting into the surface of the cloth, integrating it permanently with the structure. It is not so important that words are able to be read; rather, that they connote communication beyond what is actually written – perhaps an audible memory of the sound of a voice.

I embrace the idea of “old but kept” cloth as a metaphorical expression of people’s lives. Clearly, cloth can be physical evidence of past experiences and rituals. Fabric that has been handled, washed, ironed and folded repeatedly possesses a quality evocative of human care. Thus, the cloth is, at times, not only the form, but the subject matter – cloth and clothing as manifestations of the lives which possessed them.

I have been given some pieces of linen, which were handwoven over 100 years ago by my great grandmother. I keep them wrapped up carefully in a box in a drawer. I feel a certain responsibility to save these remnants, not because of their intrinsic value, but because someone else had preserved them all those years before me. Time goes by, and I may never look in that box, yet I know it’s there. That which is carefully wrapped, protected, and put away for another time has value even if never touched or looked at again. Just our awareness of its existence is enough reason to save it. My work tries to affirm the need to keep safe that which cannot be touched. 

The most precious objects that I own are handwritten letters from family and friends that I have accumulated over many years. In a time when handwritten letters are becoming scarce, I wanted to build a safe space. I began wrapping and stitching string, gauze and sheer silk around stacks of letters. This idea led to the piece Chrysalid. The title alludes to the impending emergence of a cocoon. The partially concealed, bundled forms speak about suspended time, and our need to preserve the intangible things that we hold close.

In my Excavation and Soulskin series, I present cloth and clothing as having the same significance as other essential elements of the earth. In this way, I want to elevate the value of cloth as personal evidence of a life. Some of my Soulskin pieces are quite fragile. I love the vulnerability that cloth shares with skin.

With the new millennium my work continues to explore the theme of preservation, yet now it is concerned with preservation of the land. This past year, I purchased some acreage outside the city. I have spent many days and nights immersed in an environment of woods, streams, meadows and lake. I am gradually reintroducing the native prairie grasses and making efforts to preserve and nurture the wild life. Time and process take on new meanings – “readings” of tree skeletons, tracks in the mud, intricate nest weavings, thousands of opening seed heads, and the indefatigable patience of the heron – these are now becoming my text. This new venture has had a profound impact on my work. The excitement of a change in surroundings and the daily observance of decay, rebirth, and survival in the wild have opened up unlimited possibilities.

Susan Lordi Marker

Chrysalid cotton, synthetic fiber, paper, pigment, thread 24" x 32" x 9". 1993 “The most precious objects I own are letters from family and friends. In a time when hand-written letters are becoming scare, I wanted to build a protective space. I began wrapping and stitching string, guaze and sheer silk around stacks of letters. This led to the piece Chrysalid. The title refers to the impending emergence from a cocoon. The partially concealed, bundled forms speak about suspended time and our need to preserve the intangible things that we hold close.” Susan Lordi Marker 

Chrysalid

cotton, synthetic fiber, paper, pigment, thread

24" x 32" x 9". 1993

“The most precious objects I own are letters from family and friends. In a time when hand-written letters are becoming scare, I wanted to build a protective space. I began wrapping and stitching string, guaze and sheer silk around stacks of letters. This led to the piece Chrysalid. The title refers to the impending emergence from a cocoon. The partially concealed, bundled forms speak about suspended time and our need to preserve the intangible things that we hold close.” Susan Lordi Marker 

Chrysalid (DETAIL)

Chrysalid (DETAIL)

Chrysalid (DETAIL)

Chrysalid (DETAIL)

Old Stories silk, rayon, dye, pigment, thread, wood 72" x 18" x 6"  1991 “In my own family, only a vestige of my immigrant grandparents’ dialect remains but somehow remnant of their oral traditions persist and endure and continually inform. That continuum—that dialogue between generations—is implied in this work by the use of layering, not only with cloth but with images of text.” 

Old Stories

silk, rayon, dye, pigment, thread, wood
72" x 18" x 6" 
1991

“In my own family, only a vestige of my immigrant grandparents’ dialect remains but somehow remnant of their oral traditions persist and endure and continually inform. That continuum—that dialogue between generations—is implied in this work by the use of layering, not only with cloth but with images of text.” 

Soulskin; Listening to Julia linen, silk, cotton, thread, dye 29" x 26" 1995 “I love the vulnerability of cloth. This work is a very fragile, ethereal form that has a body or skin-like reference. Skin, like cloth, is fragile and vulnerable to the elements and I question what really endures.” Susan Lordi Marker

Soulskin; Listening to Julia

linen, silk, cotton, thread, dye
29" x 26"
1995

“I love the vulnerability of cloth. This work is a very fragile, ethereal form that has a body or skin-like reference. Skin, like cloth, is fragile and vulnerable to the elements and I question what really endures.” Susan Lordi Marker

Soulskin; Listening to Julia (DETAIL)

Soulskin; Listening to Julia (DETAIL)

Excavation: Soulskin #11 linen blend, thread, dye, pigment / devoré 66" x 34" “Here I present cloth as having the same significance as other essential elements of the earth. Much of the linen is burnt away, leaving a thin, transparent veil of fiber connecting what remains. Extending the piece 13" away from the wall gives it a floating, tenuous presence. I wanted to elevate the value of cloth as personal evidence of a life.”

Excavation: Soulskin #11

linen blend, thread, dye, pigment / devoré
66" x 34"

“Here I present cloth as having the same significance as other essential elements of the earth. Much of the linen is burnt away, leaving a thin, transparent veil of fiber connecting what remains. Extending the piece 13" away from the wall gives it a floating, tenuous presence. I wanted to elevate the value of cloth as personal evidence of a life.”

Excavation: Soulskin #11 (DETAIL)

Excavation: Soulskin #11 (DETAIL)

Manifesto Cotton, nylon, dye, pigment, thread 65" x 65" x 5"  1993 “The idea that the past continues to inform the present intrigues me. In Manifesto, a dialogue among generations is glimpsed through a palimpsest of images and text. This layering could imply gradual disappearance, yet also suggest a process of unfolding and emerging.”

Manifesto

Cotton, nylon, dye, pigment, thread
65" x 65" x 5" 
1993

“The idea that the past continues to inform the present intrigues me. In Manifesto, a dialogue among generations is glimpsed through a palimpsest of images and text. This layering could imply gradual disappearance, yet also suggest a process of unfolding and emerging.”

Manifesto (DETAIL)

Manifesto (DETAIL)

Manifesto (DETAIL)

Manifesto (DETAIL)

Manifesto (DETAIL)

Manifesto (DETAIL)

Tree Collage 11" x 7.5". 1992 “On one of the ‘pages’, a figure suddenly springs upward, the image of a joyful young boy, arms flung up, his body patterned with green and yellow, except for the hands which are wine red. The background texture consists of plant motifs, frequently seen in the artist’s textile. Susan Lordi Marker has talked about her love of natural forms, of the “fibrousness” of prairie grasses. The variations in such forms are a visual counterpoint to the regularity of woven textile structure.”  –Hildreth York, in Portfolio book

Tree

Collage
11" x 7.5". 1992

“On one of the ‘pages’, a figure suddenly springs upward, the image of a joyful young boy, arms flung up, his body patterned with green and yellow, except for the hands which are wine red. The background texture consists of plant motifs, frequently seen in the artist’s textile. Susan Lordi Marker has talked about her love of natural forms, of the “fibrousness” of prairie grasses. The variations in such forms are a visual counterpoint to the regularity of woven textile structure.”  –Hildreth York, in Portfolio book

Book of Experiments Mixed media 24" x 22" x 3". 1992-97 “Lordi Marker’s handmade ‘book’ of experiments is especially intriguing. Swatches of materials, images of various sorts, are stitched together as if they were fragments of dreams, complex and multi-layered as dreams are. The pieces in this book sometimes precede, but often accompany the development of ongoing work. In this gathering of samples are ideas and images that will occur in finished work. Even the most spontaneous-seeming of Lordi Marker’s early and later pieces may have undergone arduous rehearsal, possibly in more than one medium. The book of experiments is, in a very real sense, the artist’s visual diary”

Book of Experiments

Mixed media
24" x 22" x 3". 1992-97

“Lordi Marker’s handmade ‘book’ of experiments is especially intriguing. Swatches of materials, images of various sorts, are stitched together as if they were fragments of dreams, complex and multi-layered as dreams are. The pieces in this book sometimes precede, but often accompany the development of ongoing work. In this gathering of samples are ideas and images that will occur in finished work. Even the most spontaneous-seeming of Lordi Marker’s early and later pieces may have undergone arduous rehearsal, possibly in more than one medium. The book of experiments is, in a very real sense, the artist’s visual diary”

Book of Experiments (DETAIL)

Book of Experiments (DETAIL)

Excavation: Soulskin #10 linen blend, thread, dye, pigment / devoré 30" x 47" X 13". 1997 “I embrace the idea of “old but kept” cloth as a metaphorical expression of people’s lives. Clearly, cloth can be physical evidence of past experiences, traditions, and rituals. The text which is burnt through the surface alludes to a personal account, traditions of storytelling, or proverbs passed down through generations, These are all intangibles which can slip through one’s fingers if they are not somehow preserved, Both skin and cloth are fragile and vulnerable to the elements, and I question what really lasts, or endures through time.“

Excavation: Soulskin #10

linen blend, thread, dye, pigment / devoré
30" x 47" X 13". 1997

“I embrace the idea of “old but kept” cloth as a metaphorical expression of people’s lives. Clearly, cloth can be physical evidence of past experiences, traditions, and rituals. The text which is burnt through the surface alludes to a personal account, traditions of storytelling, or proverbs passed down through generations, These are all intangibles which can slip through one’s fingers if they are not somehow preserved, Both skin and cloth are fragile and vulnerable to the elements, and I question what really lasts, or endures through time.“

Excavation: Soulskin #10 (DETAIL)

Excavation: Soulskin #10 (DETAIL)

Lost Dialect (DETAIL) Silk gauze, dye, thread DETAIL (overall piece is 72" x 18" x 6").  1991

Lost Dialect (DETAIL)

Silk gauze, dye, thread
DETAIL (overall piece is 72" x 18" x 6").  1991

Keeper of the Records silk, cotton, synthetic fiber, pigment, thread 72" x 43" x 6". 1992 “Much of my work refers to documents, books or diaries, yet at the same time suggesting communication beyond the written word. Who or what is the true ‘keeper of the records? How do we preserve the intangible? The forms I use could also carry metaphorical messages about preservation, preciousness, and rarity.”

Keeper of the Records

silk, cotton, synthetic fiber, pigment, thread
72" x 43" x 6". 1992

“Much of my work refers to documents, books or diaries, yet at the same time suggesting communication beyond the written word. Who or what is the true ‘keeper of the records? How do we preserve the intangible? The forms I use could also carry metaphorical messages about preservation, preciousness, and rarity.”

Keeper of the Records (DETAIL)

Keeper of the Records (DETAIL)

Keeper of the Records (DETAIL)

Keeper of the Records (DETAIL)

Keeper of the Records (DETAIL)

Keeper of the Records (DETAIL)

Sympathetic Resonance cotton, silk, nylon, synthetic fiber, pigment, thread 42" x 29" x 6". 1992

Sympathetic Resonance

cotton, silk, nylon, synthetic fiber, pigment, thread

42" x 29" x 6". 1992

Sympathetic Resonance (DETAIL)

Sympathetic Resonance (DETAIL)

Sympathetic Resonance (DETAIL)

Sympathetic Resonance (DETAIL)

Tell Your Own Story cotton, silk, nylon, synthetic fiber, pigment, thread 42" x 29" x 6". 1992

Tell Your Own Story

cotton, silk, nylon, synthetic fiber, pigment, thread

42" x 29" x 6". 1992

Tell Your Own Story (DETAIL)

Tell Your Own Story (DETAIL)

Passageways, Passageways—Anatomy of an Heirloom synthetic fiber, cotton, pigment, thread 30" x 53" x 5". 1993

Passageways, Passageways—Anatomy of an Heirloom

synthetic fiber, cotton, pigment, thread

30" x 53" x 5". 1993

Passageways, Passageways—Anatomy of an Heirloom (DETAIL)

Passageways, Passageways—Anatomy of an Heirloom (DETAIL)

Passageways, Passageways—Anatomy of an Heirloom (DETAIL)

Passageways, Passageways—Anatomy of an Heirloom (DETAIL)

Sicilian Socks—The Sacred and Profane rayon, synthetic fiber, pigment, dye, wood  63" x 80" x 3". 1992 “Tangible objects which are physical evidence of people’s lives are also metaphors for their life experiences and traditions.” 

Sicilian Socks—The Sacred and Profane

rayon, synthetic fiber, pigment, dye, wood 

63" x 80" x 3". 1992

“Tangible objects which are physical evidence of people’s lives are also metaphors for their life experiences and traditions.” 

Sicilian Socks—The Sacred and Profane (DETAIL)

Sicilian Socks—The Sacred and Profane (DETAIL)

Untapped cotton, wood, rope, pigment, thread 30" x 33" x 8". 1993

Untapped

cotton, wood, rope, pigment, thread

30" x 33" x 8". 1993

Untapped (DETAIL)

Untapped (DETAIL)