Thursday, February 10, 2011

Elisa D'Arrigo: Accretion

Recollection ... terracotta (1)
cloth, acrylic paint, thread
20 x 19 x 4 inches

I have a long-held interest in artwork that has in some way been inspired or influenced by textiles. I am also interested in artwork in which an artist utilizes textile materials but the material is not the primary identifier or focus of the work. Work of this type might be made from textile materials but the art in it's final form is not identified specifically as textiles. I believe the work of Elisa D'Arrigo is a beautiful example of the last described type of work.

I discovered Elisa's work through a friend and when I visited her website I knew immediately that I wanted to share her work with my readers.

Elisa uses the word "accretion" to describe her process. The dictionary meaning of accretion is: the process of growth or increase, typically by the gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter.

Does that description touch you? Those of you who work with textile materials know this process well. There are many processes in the textile world and almost all of them involve the accumulation of pieces of fabric, threads and stitches or layers. What a wonderful point of departure.

I find this body of work to be very powerful. For me, it's strength comes from the obvious clarity of vision and perfect combination of simplicity and complexity. Simplicity in that it utilizes hand processes and complex in its structure and concept. I hope you enjoy this artist's work.

La Carta (11)
handmade paper, thread, acrylic paint, marble dust
9 x 7 inches


Terry: In your artist statement you say, "Memories are only points of departure. The process of making the work ultimately determines each piece. My objective is to stay in the moment, mindful of accident and chance, responding to what unfolds."
With those ideas in-mind, do you think of your work as Process Art?

Elisa: Much of what is described as "Process Art" does relate to my work. Improvisation, and the way that I manipulate, respond to, and choose materials are important components of my work. That said, I do not refer to my work as "Process Art" specifically, nor do I generally look for overarching definitions as a way to think about my work. I tend to resist labels as they don't always leave room for complexity and can constrict how work is seen and thought about. How I respond to working with materials while in the midst of making a piece, and where that may lead varies and reflects transitory states of mind, and the interior narrative that may occur with that particular work. Musing takes place. I am not sure the term "Process Art" defines that experience.

La Carta (11)


paper, thread, acrylic paint, marble dust

9 x 7 inches

Terry: Is it important to you that viewers know what the source ideas are? Do you share this information when exhibiting your work?

Elisa: As source ideas I assume you are alluding to this sentence in my statement: " A specific memory underlies each piece, and partially determines its particular character and color. These memories are of images I once observed, and then held in mind... sometimes for decades, and are the subtext of the work." I might share this information in a press release, and obviously, it is in the statement that you read. It is background information however, and the work can be seen and experienced without it. My titles frequently allude to this information ("Recollection...terracotta", or "" for example), but in a way that hopefully does not "explain" the work. I have also done works that are not necessarily emerging from specific memories. So I should update that statement. If I were able to write something that completely expressed what the work is, I would probably not be bothering to make something visual.

Budding (6)


cloth, acrylic paint, thread

33 x 47 x 49 inches

Budding (6) detail

Terry: The use of stitching and the manipulation of fabric are central to your current work. I have read that you were introduced to textiles through your grandmother's embroidery when you were a child. How did you begin to incorporate textiles and textile processes into your art making?

Elisa: I never consciously intended to incorporate textiles into my work. Cloth was one of many materials I was working with, and originally served as a foundation layer over which I would apply unfired clay, wax, or paper pulp. Eventually the other materials were discontinued, and the cloth remained. So I began to utilize sewing in order to connect parts to each other, because what better way to attach cloth to itself? I realized that stitching has a lot of expressive possibilities. Memories resurfaced of the embroidery I lived with (and also learned to do) while growing up. This reminded me of how I always thought of embroidery as drawing with thread and especially savored the materiality of line created in that way.

Cross Section (2)


cloth, wax, acrylic paint, thread

36 x 33 x 7 inches

Terry: Are you aware of current trends in "fiber art"?

Elisa: I am not.

Reconstructed (5)


handmade paper, thread, acrylic paint, marble dust

18 x 8 x 8 inches

Terry: Would you tell us about your color palette and what role color plays in your work?

Elisa: In many of my works of the last few years, my choice of color relates to the particular visual memory that I am attempting to conjure in a specific piece.

Reconstructed (3)


handmade paper, thread, pigments

20 x 14 x 5 inches

Terry: How do you "feed" your creativity?

Elisa: I tend to not think about this. I mostly am concerned with each piece coming from a sense of urgency and discovery, rather than a repetition of something I already know and have done. I try to stay in the moment with a work and with the experience of working on it. For me, ideas emerge from making work.

White Shadows (2)


paper, cloth, acrylic paint, thread

9 x 7 x 1 inches

Terry: Many artists collect all sorts of things. Do you collect anything?

Elisa: At this point in my life, no. I have so much "stuff" already and limited space. However, if time, money and space were not considerations, there are things I probably would enjoy collecting.

Recollection... Pink (1)


paper, cloth, acrylic paint, thread, marble dust

28 x 83 x 6 inches

Recollection... Pink (1) - detail

Elisa's work will be part of a group exhibition at FiveMyles Brooklyn, NY from March 19th - May 6th, 2011. The title of the show is "Art/Sewn" and was curated by Ward Mintz.

Elisa's work will be featured in a solo exhibition from April 15 - May28th at the Flippo Gallery at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Va.

Please visit: to see more of Elisa's artwork, biography, reviews and her full statement.

All works courtesy of the artist and Elizabeth Harris Gallery.

Blue Corner


paper, cloth, acrylic paint, thread

6 x 4 x 3 inches

My sincere thanks to Elisa for sharing her work and her thoughts.

Thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7. I love hearing from you so remember:

Commenting is FREE!


  1. Another fabulous artist and wonderful interview Terry. I very much respond to her work and the process of making...the idea of thinking while making...I always refer to it as thinking through my hands. Identifying this layering, building concept with accretion is also the perfect way to think about it! Many thanks again...Patti/MissouriBendStudio

  2. Thank you Patti. I like your idea of "thinking through your hand". Always nice to hear your thoughts.

  3. I can see why you were drawn to her work. I love it - I think the colors and the tactile qualities are what intrigue me most. I would love to watch her manipulate those pieces that are what I will call, cubist, in nature.

  4. Thank you Gerrie for your comment. That is a very interesting concept. I can imagine the process is very contemplative.

  5. Just finished peering at these images, wishing they were in front of me instead of on a screen. These must be delightful in person...I'm going to make a point of seeing them.

    Your question to her about the current fiber trend was apt. She seems to be coming from the 'fine art' direction towards fiber. Interesting to contrast this to those of us who started with textiles as a base.

    One obvious advantage is that she is not reflecting work that is recognizable. In one of Michael James' interviews, he urges quilters to stay away from workshops, magazines and shows until their own voice is established.

    Thanks for another intriguing and inspiring interview!

  6. Thank you for a great comment Jan. Your observation relating to "point-of-view" is a really good one. Elisa is using fabric as a material and not as an end in itself. While she obviously uses the material effectively, she would use a different material tomorrow if it better suited her ideas. The work is about ideas, not medium.

    I'm always interested in what Michael James has to say and his statement about workshops is interesting. The same statement can be said about some art school/class experiences. I don't think anyone finds their "voice" in a class but good teachers can help people begin the exploration.

    Please come again!

  7. Accretion, memories, exploration. Wow, what an interesting interview. The artists vocabulary is so evocative!

  8. Thank you Gayle! Evocative! Yes. I know you relate.

  9. Elisa's work is just fabulous. Thanks so much for posting.

  10. Terry-
    Another great interview:) I particularly like the question regarding current fiber art trends. The answer is priceless on several levels. I also like that her creativity (impetus for getting started) comes from a "sense of urgency and discovery".

    I was thinking about your interviews yesterday on my drive home and wondered about receiving critical feedback as an artist. Have you ever considered discussing this subject with the artists you interview?

    In any case, thank you again for such worthwhile information-and it is all free!

  11. Thank you Nancy and Libby for commenting!

    Libby - I appreciate your thought about asking artists about critical feedback. I'm adding that to my ideas for questions! For anyone who hasn't visited Elisa's website, she has links to many critical reviews of her shows and you will want to read them.

    I really appreciated Elisa's response to my question about her knowledge of trends in fiber art. Her response was simple and clear and one that provides much to think about.

    Great to hear from both you both!

  12. I am posting this comment from the always wonderful Rayna Gillman. There is some technical glitch and my blog won't accept her comments. Sorry Rayna.

    I have seen her wonderful work at that gallery in Chelsea - Eiizabeth Harris - and loved it. Some time in the last few years I fell in on her exhibit and envied her ability to think in 3D (I failed my spatial relations aptitude test in high school).

    Also the Brooklyn space is a healthy but manageable walk from my daughter's apartment in Brooklyn so if I am ever there not on a Sunday and the weather is above 50 degrees, I'll walk over to see the exhibit. Thanks for the spotlight on her and for your interview with this artist. As always, your blog is a joy.