When I tell friends and family that I make art about witches, no one seems surprised. As a child, I was obsessed with fantasy and magic, going out into the woods behind my house to look for evidence of unicorns, fairies, and dragons. I'm reasonably sure I never found any, but that love has stayed with me to this day and is the most significant influence in my art.
A second, but no less significant influence on my art is my fascination with history. My grandfather is a huge fan of the History Channel, and would frequently watch it in the evenings when I was young. I would sit with him and learn about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire; about the struggles of Boudicca and the Iceni people of the British Isles; about Ghengis Khan and Alexander the Great; and about the Malleus Maleficarum, and the 50,000 people burned to death because of it.
As a young teenager, I dipped my toes into both the textile and digital arts. Digital, because I couldn’t not experiment with it, having grown up in the digital age. Textile, because knitting is portable, relaxing, and kept me focused in class. While these two art forms may at first seem diametrically opposed, considering one is the most cutting edge and new while the other is almost as old as the human race, to me, they aren't at all. Textile arts is my bridge to the past, and my best attempt at real-life magic -- taking just a few pieces of string and creating something that didn't exist before. Digital art is my connection to the future. It’s a whole new type of magic. After all, what is more magical than art that is utterly intangible, but still somehow exists?
For this particular work, I want to capture the devastating effect that witch hunts had on medieval communities. Women who were once trusted and respected healers, midwives, and wise women were suddenly being accused of using magic to try and hurt their neighbors, and of worshiping the devil. These women went from being influential community leaders to being tortured and murdered. I chose to paint a triptych to help tell these stories. In the center panel is a medieval wise woman. She has medicinal herbs drying on the wall behind her and is knitting using homespun yarn. She is at peace. To the right, she is being dunked, which is the practice of repeatedly putting someone into the water to see if they float or sink. To the left, her trials are over, and she is being burned at the stake by the villagers she once cared so much for. Surrounding the work is a scrolling pattern that encircles four herbs associated with the dead and funerals: mullein in the top left, wormwood in the bottom left, marigold in the bottom right, and asphodel in the top right.
When viewing this work, remember to appreciate the magic in everyday things, because you never know when they might be gone.
Digital painting on cotton fabric, embroidery
© 2019 Kylie Jefferis, Some Rights Reserved
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
witch, witches, embroidery, textiles, digital art, art, digital painting, painting