Mixed media artist Cynthia Lockhart brings a painter’s eye to fabric constructions, coupling a pitch-perfect sense of color with sophisticated shape relationships in her collages. For a copy of “From Chaos to Collage” order The Artist’s Magazine’s November 2011 issue, available at NorthLightShop.com.
From Chaos to Collage
Article and images by Jane Durrell
If Lockhart came into art making by a side door, that of fashion design, everything in her experience contributes to her superbly finished, exuberantly extravagant works that are intricate, frequently layered, with color a defining element. We look at a wall hanging, Jazz on My Mind, just back from a long traveling show and welcomed by its creator like a child-come-home. “It’s all the genres of jazz,” she says. Black and white strips line one side, like piano keys. We handle the work. “Touching textiles is all right,” she says. “Mummies are thousands of years old and still in their wrappings.”
Nearby is a work in progress, lightly pinned and sketched. “I’m not sure what’s going on,” she says. “I’ll let it happen.” She sketches every day, in standard composition journals or whatever she can get her hands on. Another work, made for Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and reflecting her own African-American background, presents two slaves moving toward hoped-for freedom, the North Star and an orange moon guiding them.
Almost a dozen years ago, Lockhart left New York—where she had been in the fashion industry and also had developed her own business, designing accessories—to return to her hometown of Cincinnati and earn a master’s degree in design from her earlier alma mater, the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (UCDAAP). The return to academia was permanent; now she’s an associate professor at UCDAAP. The move also solidified her transition to fine art maker, which for her was a natural progression from fashion. “I can tackle any fabric, I can upholster, I create new techniques for what I want to do,” Lockhart says. “I’m afraid of nothing.”
Last spring, Cincinnati’s Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery presented Fibercations, a solo show of Lockhart’s work, loosely categorized as “art quilts.” Lockhart stresses that her work is “not from the traditional quilt vernacular” but reflects her training in other fields. The least quilt-like element is the frequently employed three-dimensional quality, most marked in the Weston Show by Totem Installation (A) and Totem Installation (B). These freestanding sculptures are, respectively, 96- and 108-inches high and therefore too tall to have been completed in Lockhart’s basement studio. “I had to do them as on-site installations,” she says. “My fashion background helped. I’m phenomenal with draping!” Another notably three-dimensional piece in that show was Amazing Grace (2011), which bends out from the wall, 20 sheets of fabric in a wave.
“My art,” explains Lockhart, “gets in touch with what informs me … the journey of life, the twists and turns … I would be remiss not to mention my faith, its hope and joy.”
At the studio’s far end, reached by working one’s way through the gorgeous clutter, is Lockhart’s industrial sewing machine. Another sewing machine, larger and even more industrial, stands ready to take on leather or thick quilts.
Books are shelved next to the stairway; while going upstairs I note one on Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scottish architect and designer; one on Antoni Gaudi, the defining architect of Barcelona; works on shoes, textiles, African art; and one titled The Artful Handbag. On the ground floor, it’s apparent that the studio creeps upstairs. Articles are scattered here and there; neither ideas nor objects can be contained.
Jane Durrell writes for a variety of visual arts publications. She has worked as an art critic at the Cincinnati Post and press officer for the Cincinnati Art Museum. For a copy of “From Chaos to Collage” order The Artist’s Magazine’s November 2011 issue, available at NorthLightShop.com.
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