Jess Bee is a mixed-media artist who works primarily in fiber arts. In her fabric collages she creates vivid worlds rich with texture and depth that explore dreams, fears, and anxieties while walking the line between hauntingly dark and playful. Using repurposed fabric scraps, Bee borrows from textiles' rich history of cultural meaning and puts it into new contexts, highlighting the viewers' relationship to this everyday material.
As an artist, I have been intrigued by the alchemical nature of fabric - it transforms from plant (or in the case of synthetics, chemical) into filaments, from yarns into two-dimensional cloth, and from there morphs into the three dimensional constructs of clothing and other goods. As clothing, fabric is routinely the closest thing to our bodies, sleeps with us, covers us, warms us, is witness to our experiences, and yet we throw it away when its useful life has ended. By using fabric in my work I create an opportunity for cloth remnants to gain a new purpose and for deconstructed clothing to live on, carrying the secret history of its past owners.
All of the fabrics I use in my work are "scraps" or extras of some sort - pieces left over from sewing projects, as well as repurposed clothing, cloth donated to thrift stores, and upholstery sample swatches. The collage technique allows me to repurpose very small pieces that are otherwise hard to find a use for, keeping fabric out of the waste stream. I create these collages by carefully assembling small geometric pieces of fabric in layers and then fusing them to a backing fabric which is stretched over a frame like a canvas when complete. By utilizing fabrics with various shades, textures and sheen that absorb and reflect individually, I create pieces that change with the light in which they are viewed and create something similar to a mosaic or stained-glass effect.
I also use techniques like dyeing, painting, and embroidery to further transform some of the materials. By borrowing from textiles' rich history of cultural meaning and putting it into new contexts, I strive to highlight the viewers' relationship to this everyday material.
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