This body of work began sometime in the mid 1990's, as an experiment, seeing if I could adhere a dress to a canvas and create a painting over all the textures. "Dress painting" is a term I came up with to explain these when I simply couldn't think of anything better. Over the years they have evolved, with new elements of collage being added. Dress patterns, photographs, and embroidery all appear from time to time, as well as lino block prints, rubber stamps and gold leaf. I will use this space to explore the beginnings of this series, as well as showing my latest work. If the piece is available for sale you'll find the price at the bottom. Free shipping in the U.S. Contact me at kallencole@aol.com to purchase.

Would you like to see my full website? Head over to KathrineAllenColeman.com

Sunday, December 5, 2010


All other issues aside, I think I have made one of my more difficult to photograph pieces to date! "Nest" really does shine in person, unlike this flat image. But please bear with me, and maybe you'll be able to see it at a show near you.

This is a triptych, meaning it is 3 separate canvases that fit together. It's overall size is about 36" wide x 60" tall. Working from the background forward I started with a soft antique kind of blue, leaning towards the turquoise side, but a little bit dirty. The repeated pattern was created by carving the damask sort of pattern into a sheet of linoleum, it was inked just like a block print would be, with a roller, only the medium was acrylic paint.

For those of you who have known my work for many years, this may sound somewhat familiar. Some of the first pieces I ever exhibited were lino block prints. Perhaps I'll show some older pieces in my next post. In any case, I still love to carve linoleum, a slow process as one little curl after another peels off the knife. And I love the smell of the linseed oil in the linoleum.

So the block was "inked up" with paint, deep gray at first, and stamped like a big rubber stamp. The process was repeated for each block, allowed to dry, then I repeated the process, this time in creamy white. The blocks don't register tightly on one another, the white ones wiggle a little allowing the gray to show.

The nest itself was found in a rose bush in our front yard, cardinals come and build a new one each year. I photographed it and had them enlarged to this size and used an acrylic transfer process to get them on the canvas. I was originally only intending to use one, but the painting begged for more.

The dress was laid down on top of all this background, a vintage 50's house dress with a Swiss dot texture that shows through the paint and a little floral lace trim. And painted the "starter home" plan on top. With all the "bonus rooms" and "media rooms" in today's house plans it was fun to look at how they were laid out in the '60's when two bathrooms was considered a little extravagant!

NEST was stitched through the top with embroidery floss, and filled in with a little translucent yellow paint. Sometimes I think of nest as a noun, other times as a command, it changes the flavor of the piece significantly.

So what is the point? Well I was brought up in an era of "hope chests" and "starter homes." My nesting instinct was encouraged from a very early age. And I'm really not all that sure how I feel about it. So I often come around and take a little poke at the issue. Is it instinctive, like birds building nests? Is it taught through china patterns and paint samples? Is it just brilliant marketing?

Creating a home, a place of my own, is like a constant art project mixed with a search for comfort and peace. But others seem to be much happier constantly migrating, or need little more than one room with a bed and a TV. How does this happen?

This piece I'm sure will wind up in the home of someone with a great nesting instinct, art collectors often are "nesters," and I hope it brings a little comfort and peace, and introspection on how and why it got there. Enjoy!

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