The Aesthetic Function of Cloth in Drawings by Sharon Kelly

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Sharon Kelly focused her art practice on charcoal drawings, later adding several video pieces. Her use of cloth ranges from providing a ground for an image to becoming an image, to a trope of a particular state of mind. Pertinent to my inquiry are Wittgenstein’s thoughts on use as the hinge for creativity, the use connects us to a complicated network of similarities, overlapping and crisscrossing (Wittgenstein 1953: 66). My proposition is that cloth and garments enter into a variety of relationships with and within the drawings. An active and visually sophisticated response of an artist to textiles brings forth the capacity of a cloth or a garment to convey any or several of the following: identity, expression, gender, age, mood, intent, attractiveness, social status, and even honesty. Applied outside the range of its normal use, the textile does no actual work at all, yet it is not an idle wheel or ornament. The cloth or a garment in Sharon Kelly’s art is not subordinated to the art: there is no hierarchy. Rather, the aesthetic function isolates the object from the everyday use and fastens our attention powerfully to it. The fabric transforms itself into a gatekeeper of feeling.

Keywords: charcoal drawings; emotion; garments; memory; portrait

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Textile brings together research in textile studies in an innovative and distinctive academic forum for all those who share a multifaceted view of textiles within an expanded field. Peer-reviewed and in full-color throughout, it represents a dynamic and wide-ranging set of critical practices. It provides a platform for points of departure between art and craft; gender and identity; cloth, body and architecture; labor and technology; techno-design and practice— all situated within the broader contexts of material and visual culture.
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