Fiber is a tradition of storytelling. My textiles center narratives from within my own communities of humans, habits, and relationships to inform design. Expanding upon the practice of visualizing history within my field, my textiles archive moments of my sociality—physical, tactile contributions that I offer back into the communities which they serve. I examine specific qualitative content surrounding a person or community to which I have a bond.
My source material comes from anecdotal and daily places, for instance, text threads, daily snapshots, family recipes, and personal habits. After looking closely to find the cadences and emotional energies that construct the identities expressed in my data, I ask my textiles to preserve these human narratives in the systems and patterns of their structure. The collection of information directly builds the foundation for the design and function, making the tactile outcome of the work dictated by the characteristics of content and connections I am exploring.
In our current age of using “big data” as a tool to simplify complexity and give us quick, objective reads into large issues and conversations, I argue that data, made by humans and representative of humans, is also inherently flawed and full of individualized narrative. So too, is the production of handwoven artworks, holding both systematic processes, and the variations that come with any human-made object. The textiles show us snapshots in time that offer rich stories to those willing to pause, and patiently follow the threads that connect together moments of human living.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Rachel Wittels is an artist and art teacher from Rochester, New York. She earned her BS/MS.ED in Art Education with a minor in technical theater costuming from Nazareth College in Rochester. Relocating in 2017, Wittels spent four years as an emerging artist and art educator living in New York City. Teaching high school art at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music, Art, & Performing Arts, she primarily worked with students on fashion and digital arts, and fostered community partnerships with institutions such the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Marc Jacobs Fashion Company. In partnership with her teaching, Wittels’ studio practice is rooted in textile arts- most notably weaving, data visualization and the shared history between these two processes.
Her most recent exhibitions include Threads that Bind with Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition in Brooklyn, New York, the Detroit Artist Market’s 2023 Annual Scholarship Exhibition, Cranbrook Academy of Art’s 2023 Graduate Art Exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills Michigan, and the biannual 68th Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York. She has also been recently featured in Detroit based artist publication Clearline Zine Issue 004: Air, Fashion, Action and Issue 4 of New Visionary Art Magazine hosted by New York’s Visionary Art Collective. Her most recent relocation to Detroit, Michigan, has been in pursuit of her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art with the Fiber Department, which she achieved in May 2023.
© Rachel Wittels