Unspoken Thoughts: Betrayal, 25" X 21"

Embroidery, applique, beading, buttons on cotton

Art is an integral part of my life. Teaching is a calling, yet I'm compelled to make art...to express myself through the act of drawing, sewing, and stitching. My experiences as a student, a public school teacher, a seamstress, a dress designer, a weaver, a basketmaker, a quilter, a painter, a mother, a divorcee, and a daughter have all found their place in my work.

In the true nature of an artist, I am curious about artists and the choices they make. I am drawn to works by Nancy Graves, Helen Frankenthaler, Constance Howard, Tilleke Schwarz, Mary Ruth Smith, Sara Impey, and Freidensreich Hundertwasser. Their influences of color, theory, and technique are embedded in each piece I create. The visual characteristics of Medieval manuscripts' elaborate lettering, ancient artifacts' codes, Native American traditional symbols, Arabic and Hebrew calligraphy have contributed to my use of text/language in my current work. 

I'm excited about my return to embroidery as my media of choice. I've always been attracted to the tactile quality of the thread, old linen, and embellishment with beads and trim. The process of stitching by hand, the repetition of stitches, turning edges and selecting threads is linked to my past as a small child learning how to embroider with my mother and grandmother. I recreate this experience in a contemporary voice. 

The Texas WILDlife series is pure fun and inspired by life on the Pedernales River. Embroidery and applique are the perfect media to depict my fascination with insects, plants, and the minutiae of nature. My otherworldly creatures have a captivating quality that rewards careful observation,  revealing meticulous precision and complexity of the handmade specimen composed of fabric, trapunto, quilting, beading, and stitching. The Topographic series continues along the same thread of investigation with the introduction of maps.

Freidensreich Hundertwasser's theory, The Five Skins of Man, the layers in which we live and express our identities, (Restany, 1997), has impacted my series, "Thoughts Unspoken".  My focus is on the second "skin", the clothes. But unlike Hundertwasser who was more interested in the image clothing projected of the person, I am examining the issues that clothing conceals, exploring text as imagery...revealing what is deep inside, the true self which lies beneath the persona. The dress, the symbol of women, covers and contains her daily thoughts, hopes, dreams, loves, memories, losses, shame, fears, and joys. "Thoughts Unspoken" explores the unvoiced thoughts of women making them visible through text/language, stitchery, applique, and quilting. Thread makes marks on fabric much the same way as a pencil or a pen on paper uniquely as a signature. The words exist as a visual form acting as a conveyor of meaning designed to agitate, disturb, and provoke questions(Impey, 2013).

This series launched 4 years ago with the quote, "Devote yourself to an idea".  That commitment remains strong.

Beth Cunningham






​ fiber artist