A conversation with
Our current Main Gallery and Studio Gallery exhibitors take a self-reflective approach to their exhibitions. Garbblatt, by our Main Gallery Exhibitor Leanne Goldblatt, is a collection of handmade garments embellished, and layered, with snapshots of from a privileged, white-trash upbringing.
An Artist Talk will be held in the Main Gallery and on Facebook Live Saturday, January 29 from 12-1pm.
How did you get involved with Book Arts?
I was first introduced to Book Arts at the University at Buffalo while taking an undergraduate 3D design course with Kyla Kegler. She invited Jeff Sherven into class to do a very introductory demonstration on a folded accordion book and he made the mistake of mentioning a more advanced sewn binding. After I wore him down, he demonstrated that tutorial as well, then he introduced me to Adele Henderson, who taught me everything I know during her Artists’ Books course. A couple of years later, Adele was a member of my thesis committee and asked me to join her in teaching that course, which I have taught several semesters since.
You work with so many mediums, what made you decide to create this exhibition with wearable garments?
I don’t know that I regard wearable garments as an individual or separate medium in itself, I think that this exhibition turned out this way because I enjoy working across multiple mediums and because I find everything to be related anyways. Garment construction jumps back and forth between modes of two dimensional work and three dimensional work. I am able to treat the surface of the fabric like I would paper, working both digitally and physically to create line drawings; building up layers of stitches in the same way I screen print layers of ink. Even the patterns I start with are two dimensional sheets of butcher paper and then must be structurally bound by thread to fit a specific three dimensional form.
I’ve periodically tried to make clothes my entire life, I was the smallest of my siblings for the majority of our upbringing so I was often gifted hand-me-downs under the condition I would not cut them. Sewing and garment construction has been my longest running failed medium, so I was hoping the pressure of exhibiting work could force me through some productive discoveries. I have always been very attracted to handmade or visibly altered garments and I love functional art, so it is fun to make things that do more that sit on a wall and eventually within a cardboard box.
How does this exhibition compare to past exhibitions of yours?
I guess when I reflect on past exhibitions I have to admit the content is always rooted in the reconciliation of my childhood. The form changes as I get excited about new processes or interested in new tools, and I make with what I have – but I don’t stray very far from self reflection via the hand made. This work is absolutely an evolutionary step between my last exhibition and what I’m interested in next, and now that I’ve been making things for a couple years I can see that while my projects happen separately from one another they are all dependent on each other. I think that there is enough information in this show to appreciate it alone, but that there is a benefit to being among the four or five folks that have viewed my films and past work (haha). Like I said, I make very personal work, but I admit I divvy it out in small increments in a very gatekeeping kind of way.
How has your art helped you with reflecting on your past?
I think it’s incredibly important that all people reflect on their past, that they understand what and where they came from, and why it was the way it was, but most importantly how has it informed who you are and what you think, feel, and do. I am grateful for my son, that his existence as the raging ball of fire at the center of my universe has put that train on the tracks and forced me to acknowledge and understand my own upbringing in order to provide him with the one he deserves.
Art is simply where I am comfortable enough reflecting on some of these things. Art is so inherently subjective that it provides a veil of safety against feeling exposed or vulnerable. I am immensely stubborn, even to my own interrogation, so art has become a theraputic practice where I can work through things I would reluctantly bury otherwise. Especially when it comes to mediums which demand a great deal of you physically, it is easier for me to think when I’m running or pulling prints, or moving between the three sewing machines in my bedroom. The physical labor of making, the ability to absorb yourself in the process; these factors distract, they disarm mechanisms of self defense that might otherwise lock down and reject anything capable of causing vulnerability.
What do you want audiences to gain from your exhibition?
I want people who are interested in these mediums to get involved in them, and I hope the exhibition portrays me as an approachable beginner myself who would love to share what I’ve learned so far. But honestly Buffalo is filled with talented makers and creators, I was sort of hoping someone who knew what they were doing would see my exhibition and share their knowledge with me.
“Art is so inherently subjective that it provides a veil of safety against feeling exposed or vulnerable.”
This blog post was written by Book Arts Gallery Assistant, Nina Grenga. Nina is currently getting her Master’s at the University at Buffalo in Critical Museum Studies with a concentration in Arts Management.