I am a storyteller. Just as a writer does, I create narrative arcs, form characters, and employ metaphor. Through painting and weaving, I try to understand patterns in my experience and in the lives of people I love. My subjects are universal themes such as identity, history, and hope. However, I try to explore these themes through symbols from my own life. From my experience with hand weaving, for example, I have discovered that amazing beauty can come from threads that tangle and snarl. My loom often breaks down, threads snap, and I often make mistakes in my pattern, but the result of my efforts is a thing of order and poetry. This craft is the perfect form to express the idea of combining the threads of my own experiences with family history and heritage.
The elements in my pictures are symbolic, from the objects I choose to depict, to the supports, threads, and paint that I use. I want every element of the picture to mean something, so I choose my materials carefully. For my Continuous Thread series, I paint on wood panels because trees have their own life spans and histories. They grow slowly and are present in the lives of multiple generations. I also chose not to use synthetic threads in my textiles, continuing the concept of growth over time, and chose instead to weave with cotton.
My current work deals with the concept of creating a future from the synthesis of personal experiences and family history. In my own life, I have doubts about the political and social future of our nation, about the health of family members, and my own economic safety. Thankfully, I have many examples of people who have woven something beautiful out of the chaotic threads of life. Women especially, in my family, show me the hope present in perseverance and the healing that can develop out of times of pain. These women created a good life for their families even though their situations seemed unworkable.
In order to convey this theme, I created the character of a young woman who gathers thread from her tangled environment. The woman is not trapped by the forest, instead she moves through the confusion purposefully. The example of family members allows the woman to wind her threads into a manageable form. Finally, the woman creates a blanket for her child that will keep him safe and comfortable. The story that I am telling is one of identity, because the woman gathers strength, as I have, from her family. The narrative is also about persistence and the ability to hope and dream. The young woman chooses to create even when it would be easier to walk away. She provides for her child and gives him a connection to the past as well as strength for the future.
Mixed Media, 60" x 100"
© 2013 Leilani Anderson, All Rights Reserved