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Art Basel Miami Beach 2008 Studio Visits: Frances Trombly

Frances Trombly’s studio

In conjunction with recent collaborations between Thomas Hollingworth, Art Basel Miami Beach 2008 (Magazine pg. 100), Modern Luxury (Miami) and NO MAD Paper, which feature Miami’s cultural highlights, ARTLURKER is presenting studio visits of select Miami based contemporary artists. Running concurrently with Art Basel Miami Beach the aim of these features is to venerate the cities native artistic wealth and honor those who continue to make Miami what it is.

Very much a crafts person, Trombly employs her hand in the production of woven works of art that mimic everyday objects with sublime realism. Her skillful re-appropriation of the mundane has made her one of David Castillo Gallery’s hottest emerging artists. Currently Frances has work on exhibition at Socrates Park (NY), CasaLin and of course David Castillo Gallery. Upcoming she has a potential show at Florida Women’s Museum, a residency in Italy and a solo show in San Fransisco.

Reference material in Frances Trombly’s studio.

What recent directions has your work taken?

The Thinking of Things exhibition in particular at David Castillo was in many ways a transition for me. I think a lot of my works actually tend to have a lot of transitional qualities to them in the sense that they have a lot of history attached to them or that something is going to happen or about to happen. That show was really very typical of what I had been doing, which was weaving objects from fabric, recreating them. Now I am merging them with other things. I am taking those fabric objects and adding other elements and where I see to be headed towards is taking all of the works that I make and making them functional. So I will make a rope out of whatever it is normally made out of. And obviously most of these pieces become functional pieces so I have been playing on that by making towels and curtains and even the caution tape for the Socrates installation.

So your work is becoming a more empathetic investigation into materials and their potential rather than novelty or trickery?

Yes, and its not so much the potential of the material as the fate of that material. When I take some rope I make a rope, I am not making a hat. I am not trying to add an extra layer.

Two finished works.

Presumably value comes into play also, but not so much material value but rather expression of value as effort and time.

This is something I loved about the mop, for example, or the drop cloth; those pieces, when you see them, depending on who you are and where you are when you see the pieces, you could do what you want with them. You could, if you wanted, actually pick up the mop and mop the floor with it. They have such an obvious function that in an art context makes people not quite know what to do with it. Its kind of like “OK, that’s a mop.” It can be a little unsettling because it’s so definitely a deception.

In a way, being functional almost restricts you as to what you can produce. You can make a rope out of rope much in the same way as you could make a crumpled plastic cup out ceramic but you wouldn’t want to go make floppy shovel out of rope, for example, would you?

No, it definitely would not have the same effect and yes, I am restricted by the fact that there are something’s which don’t lend themselves to recreation in thread but I don’t really feel limited by it. In terms of objects that ‘work’ there are plenty to chose from. Also it takes some degree of understanding to work out what those things will be. For me I suppose that that is the definition of a successful piece, in the way that I am working now at least.

Work in progress.

Do you have works that you would like to make but don’t, as they would not work as functional models?

Generally I am very faithful to thread but I have used other materials and even under the umbrella of thread, many different types of fabrics from plain cotton to actual tarpaulin material. There is not one piece that I can think of that I have always wanted to make but never have; I made them all already. Really the direction I am going at the moment is adding more elements and making the object more functional and hybridized as opposed to remaining absolutely faithful to yarn.

There are contradictions between your intentional replication of flaws–presumably to make the object seem more real or mass produced–and then often unfinished quality to the sewing. Can you speak about this?

I don’t always do either of those two things, or both, but I do them. In regard to the mistakes, I found out through making things that when you make something, you can almost make it too perfect. Most of the time the flaws are intentional but even if theyre not I like them. Flaws help me because I don’t really want control as much as need to have. Both in terms of the design and final product; I mean I would have loved to have made some of the boxes actually stand up right but its impossible. My main concern is the fact that there are so many traces of people in objects. Even in weaving you are able to identify someone’s hand; almost like a paint stroke. Its something that I have always thought is really beautiful[.]

Receipts, 2008 at Thinking of Things at David Castillo Gallery.

If you’re lucky then when viewing Frances Trombly’s work you’ll get stuck in this wonderful place somewhere in between figuring out that it’s not real and working out what is being said. Her main concern not to make pristine work, on the contrary, if anything it is to celebrate the human element.

In Star Trek First Contact, after seeing his colleague touch a famous spaceship for the first time, the android Data asks why touching things for humans makes them seem more real. The answer he received was doubtlessly scripted emotional pap, but the fact remains that touch and intimacy is essential to us to connect. In a world where technology is making us increasingly unfamiliar with the processes that build the things we use, Frances Trombly is touching base and building from the ground up.

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Art Basel Miami Beach 2008 Studio Visits: Frances Trombly