Artist Statement
by Karen Reimer

For the last several years I've been working with embroidery.   This body of work consists of embroidered texts ranging in cultural value from great books to candy wrappers.  Because of embroidery's labor-intensity, decorative craft status and historical use as morally hygienic work for women ("Idle hands are the devil's workplace."), it has been, in combination with these texts, a good vehicle for my examination of the relationship between beauty, labor, usefulness and value.   Of course, all of these are in the eye of the beholder; they are contingent on context.

The earlier embroideries are attempts to reproduce the original pieces of text as accurately as possible given the limitations of the medium.  Generally speaking, copies are of less value than originals.  However, when I copy by embroidering, the value of the copy is increased because of the elements of labor, handicraft and singularity.  The copy becomes also an original.   Looked at from a different point of view, the value of the copy is decreased by the technique of embroidery.  Not only is it inefficient in terms of time and labor, it also produces a bad copy.  The embroidered text teeters on the edge of legibility.  Any reading of it relies heavily on pattern recognition, projection and guesswork.

The more recent embroideries are based on newspaper pages.  Unlike the earlier works, they are not "copies".  I adhere to the formal layout of the original newspaper page, but selectively edit (i.e. I embroider the words where they fall on the page, but I don't embroider all of them) in order to translate the objectified public language of news and advertisements into subjective personal signs.

The embroideries place different value systems into conflict and demonstrate the out-of-control nature of language and the provisional quality of meaning.    Ultimately, what I'm interested in is this ambiguity.  I want to make things that are not easily classified, to radically slow down the process of recognition and naming, in order to study how meaning and identity are constructed, and  to notice and question the cultural assumptions and values underlying those understandings.


Karen Reimer's Artist Statement
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