Carter spoke about her days in undergraduate school making “boy art” to her current experimental work. Carter’s investigation into textiles, old cloth, and stitching has developed into art that expresses aging, history and personal narratives.
In college, Carter’s art professors had emphasized abstraction, the “high art” forms of painting and sculpture, and had dismissed media like fibers, sewing, and other “craft” media. Carter wanted to do important work, and that was what the men were doing. She worked in painting and printmaking, since those were “important.” Her drawings often used small marks, close together, that Carter thought of as “stitch marks.” It wasn’t until many years later that she began to allow herself to work with cloth, real stitches instead of pencil marks, and turning collage into fully formed three-dimensional pieces.
Carter’s mother made clothes for the family, and embellished the clothes with beads, decoration; she made them beautiful. When Carter started doing that with her work, she felt at home. Including very personal things, things like photographs, letters, postcards, notes and lists, and enclosing them into the art made them even more close to Carter’s feeling of home.
One of Carter’s pieces is called “Multi-Tasking Apron.” It is very long, and would wrap around one’s body several times. Some of the pockets are open, some are sewn shut, some have personal notes or items tucked into the pockets. When we were putting up the display, two young men from Topeka High’s photography class came by to work on their project. They talked to Carter for a while, and she told them about the apron. One of the boys asked “Can you imagine wearing that?” The other responded, “Man, can you imagine going through airport security in that?”
We’re regarding this exhibit as a mini-retrospective, a small version of an exhibit that features an artist’s whole career. Some of Carter’s earliest 3-D works hang from the ceiling, and it is fun to walk through the exhibit and see works in progress, and also works that continue that inquiry into what it means to live with one’s own history. The exhibit is on display through May 18.