In The Ruins

Infrastructure has been in the news lately, with the ongoing federal efforts to fund overdue repairs. I certainly want safe roads, dams, bridges, etc., but I confess to a tendency toward ruin porn. I find a strange beauty in dilapidated, rusted structures. I even enjoy an Instagram account that features photos of peeling, beaten up, scrawled over walls (@revenantreclaimer.)

This attraction is manifest in several of my works, including “Urban Decay.” I wrote about the piece earlier, but I’ve now finished it. Because the matte medium I used further stiffens the already painted fabric, I didn’t use batting but sewed the pieces directly onto the fabric backing. I also added tangles of thread ends and ribbon.

“Urban Decay” after stitching
“Urban Decay” detail of thread tangle
“Urban Decay” detail of ribbon and stitching

The fabric layers give additional texture, not unlike the buildup of paint layers on a wall. The different thicknesses of the fabrics I used (denim, damask, cotton, netting, hopsacking, interfacing) also contribute to the bumpy look. The edges are finished with yarn, and the back is covered with black felt.

Here are a few other works in my ruin porn series.

“Mean Streets”
“Rust Never Sleeps”
“Beneath The Overpass”

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, collage

9 responses to “In The Ruins

  1. Awesome artworks. “Urban Decay” is my new favorite. The tangled thread and ribbon are wonderful textural additions. From the photo here, and if I didn’t know anything about textile art, I would swear it is a (painted with paint) painting. I love how your titles cause me to take another look and actually see each piece in a new way. I think you know that I’m a huge fan of all that ruins porn too!.

    • I see a new special interest group forming – the ruins pornographers. There is a lot of actual paint on this one, as almost all the fabrics are coated with acrylic paint. I think I could have added more texture, but I didn’t want the thread/ribbon stuff to become too consciously arty.

  2. Jane Herbst

    I agree, Joanna, that there is a certain beauty in past-their-prime structures and surfaces. I like how you have captured the feel, including the use of the selected colors. The Instagram link you mentioned has some very interesting images. I look forward to exploring those in more detail. I have long been intrigued by the textures and stories of peeling paint, and hope to someday be happy with my attempts to represent that in fabric. My husband has been photographing the Carrie Blast Furnaces, remnants of the US Steel Homestead (PA) Works, and printing polymer plate photogravures on his etching press. He has posted some of the results on Instagram @bob.herbst.

    • I found that unpicking old clothes and painting them with acrylic paint helped give the look I wanted in my raw materials. And matte medium really holds fabric down, far better than fusible. Your husband’s work sounds intriguing. How does he gain entrance to those old works?

      • Jane Herbst

        It would appear that acrylic paint and matte medium will be added to my list of things with which to play. Between us we have plenty of old clothes that would be just right to gain a new life as “artwork.”
        Re Bob’s work: One Sunday each month April through October the Rivers of Steel group holds a “Photo Safari” … for $30 you get access for 3 hours to walk around outside or inside, take pictures, etc.
        There are other opportunities to see the facilities, but this one offers the most freedom to move around, rather than follow a tour group. I believe he heard about this through a photographer friend.

      • Who knew, a national heritage area devoted to old steel mills. I don’t think I’ll go, but they do offer a graffiti workshop.

  3. You have really captured the glory of peeling paint, which I love too!

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