January 14, 2016
#VOZWOMAN | Abigail Doan
How would you describe the type of work you do? What is your "artist statement”?
I generally feel comfortable with the term “artist”, but I in all honestly I actually see myself as being more of a materials investigator and preservationist.
Historically, I have created site-specific art projects that explore ideas related to the use of fiber or organic phenomena in the landscape, but never with the idea of leaving behind a permanent impression or sculptural fixture. I am more interested in finding ways to show connectivity between various creative disciplines – across borders and without prejudices.
How do you start your pieces, what is your artist process?
I spend a lot of time documenting what I see and do and consequently am drawn to the tools and craft methodologies of other cultures as a way to explore visual design language. I am also intrigued by found (recycled) materials that might be juxtaposed or interwoven in unexpected ways.
My goodness, my process is completely unorthodox. Given that I navigate between art research projects, making drawings and hands-on fabricating, as well as frequent travel with family, each new piece or series of objects begins with my examining why I feel that something might need to be created in the first place. I love making new objects, but if a situation necessitates my focusing on cultural or environmental outreach, then this is what I might focus on first. Art today is so much more than a formal gallery or studio experience.
I have never had ‘artist angst’ or creative block as a result of the way that I work. I am more focused on viewing art, design, and social practice (activism) as possible avenues for what might work when conventional approaches do not. I just do not think that we have the luxury of making for the sake of making anymore. Being a parent also makes me feel that there are urgent matters that need to be addressed in non-categorial ways and immediately at that.
We had the honor of featuring both you and you beautiful work in this photoshoot, please describe the pieces we featured. What was the inspiration behind them and why are they special to you?
I am currently working on a traveling project called, Toolshedding, where I have collected and personally created sculptural objects that I feel have qualities that extend beyond their formal tool and creative instrument properties. The project’s mission is to not only preserve artifacts that tell the stories of a range of people and places I have encountered, but also to serve as future inspiration for artists and designers when revealed in new contexts. The first formal showing of this project was at Weaving Hand gallery in Brooklyn this past October, and the feedback was tremendous in terms of how to approach future renditions.
I have always loved living with the things that I make and collect. (I find that I often have small revelations as I pass by certain objects when traveling from room-to-room at home.) My family and I like to populate our space with things that have historic and tactile resonance, and it is with this spirit that we have also raised our children. We never child-proofed our home and always encouraged our twins to be curious about the forms that animate and populate our space.
Some of these objects were made by family members, some by my own hands, and other artifacts were collected by my husband and I during our global travels. My dream is to someday house all of these pieces in a beautiful space (in the U.S. and Europe or both) as part of an educational residency program where artists, designers, and researchers can come to develop their own projects as well as living day-to-day with objects of historical beauty, fragility, and creative significance.
How do you see your work progressing in the future?
I am turning fifty in 2016 and I sometimes forget that I am not twenty-five. It is not the aging process that concerns me, but rather that fact that I feel as if I have so much more work to do in this lifetime.
I am currently focused on building a library of artifacts, textile objects, and design findings that are part of my new Lost in Fiber | agency. This initiative includes documentation and cultural research that I have been doing for our small family foundation in NYC and Europe. The site also includes a narrative database of past and present stories from travels and encounters with inspiring individuals.
I am also very proud of a book on rural communities in the Rhodope Mountains called, Faraway Songs, by the Bulgarian photographer Margi Rousseva, as our foundation co-published the book with Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture this past year. 2016 will have me updating news for the Haemimont Foundation’s journal more regularly. Toolshedding will also be traveling in the U.S. and Europe, particularly in rural areas and to wide-open natural spaces as I feel that is important to the projects’ environmental and social outreach. I will continue to make new forms, too, but as always, the materials will be informed by dialogues that I cannot anticipate yet. This is the beauty of a multi-layered process fed by concern for listening and observing as a starting point for making.
This image from our dining room features manzanita branches. Manzanita is often purely decorative but can also be used as a bioremediative dye source. I have kept these branches as a reminder of the 'tumbleweed spirit’ from my Tumbleweed Colony installation at the Wythe Hotel in May 2015.
Handmade shepherd bells with recycled textiles and fiber | part of the Lost in Fiber artifact library (made by Abigail Doan) and photographed on a VOZ woven panel.
VOZ Lineas Shawl softly outlines Abigail's embroidered shepherds bells.
Hand-plaited grasses from rural New Mexico photographed on a traditional Bulgarian embroidery textile. ‘Chaguar’ basket is made by artisans in Argentina for NURAXI.
Photos by Arturo Stanig in Abigail's home.
Photos by Arturo Stanig in Abigail's home.