Life is a journey. Lessons along the way open paths to explore, some doubling back to the main trail others taking us in a new direction. Looking back at my experiences I see times when I settled in and explored for years and then added a skill or interest that moved me on.
I grew up exploring woods and fields with family and friends. Learning about nature, observing how humans use elements for immediate use and hopefully as stewards, these lessons have influenced my lifestyle and now artwork. After living in cities and towns for decades, my partner and I built our log home nestled into a hillside in the style of structures built a century before on enough land for me to feel at home again.
There is a tactile joy that settles me, working with fibers and textiles and using simple hand tools, slowly (very slowly) stitching and pulling loops, painting visual stories of my surroundings. The prep work often includes a hot dye pot and glorious colors soaked into the various neutral wools, creating a palette for the line drawing on linen stretched on my frame to come to life. With hook in hand each pulled loop added to the others creates a picture. Needle and thread anchors other materials and paint may even cover the canvas adding another dimension to the 2-D works.
I am at a point in this journey where my work reflects important issues for me and the future as I see it. Speaking out at protests is not easy for me. Environmental issues and human rights are the focus of my art. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I hope my work communicates the beauty and fragility of my subjects:
Barns constructed of chestnut a hundred years ago, a wood species lost from the forests by blight. Their skeletons are still strong lines even when deteriorating.
The old growth in our forests is rare and valuable. I love walking through the woods viewing the strong lines shadows cast especially in winter. Logging strips acres of homes for animals, birds and insects and sometimes creates bare ground eroding in rain storms into our waterways.
Our natural resources below the surface have been excavated and transported out of state for centuries. Coal mining techniques improve technically eliminating human jobs and removing mountaintops with explosives and heavy equipment in search of less and less fuel. Extracted natural gas needs to be transported blighting the forests and fields to lay pipelines for halted projects. Nature can not be returned after stripping it away.
The annual hay season farmers labor to cut, tether, roll and collect in-between rain storms and droughts to feed cattle which are then sold at auction to highest bidder for human consumption. A simple “crop” cycle that demands so much of our limited water and land for a diet many are not consuming anymore. Could the land instead be used to raise hemp to employ, clothe and feed thousands?
Channeling generations of craftspeople as I work and mentoring the next generation, my passions for history and art are satisfied. I hope you enjoy seeing life through my efforts.
Hopefully viewing my work begins a conversation with yourself, or even better with a neighbor.
Working with fibers, connects me with generations of artisans’ spirits. Due to the slow, repetitive process, there is time to dwell on natural subjects within my art and the materials selected. Now living in West Virginia, I have come full circle – back to the farm, and rural lifestyle of my youth.”
Susan L. Feller