My quilts utilize film footage from textile documentaries, which I rework in multiple ways.
The source of the historical footage is the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), which recently de-accessioned the 16 mm films in their library. These short, educational documentaries, dated 1952 - 1982, focused on textiles as art, craft, fashion, military camouflage, political expression, and scientific metaphor.
After watching the movies, I cut them up and sew them together with my own, personal film footage. In processes that reference painting, drawing, quiltmaking, and experimental filmmaking, I bleach, dye, scratch, draw, and paint onto some of the film.
The formal logic of my sewn designs are derived from popular American quilt motifs including log cabin squares, octagonal stars, and "string quilts," wherein long, thin fabric scraps left over from other projects are cut and sewn together. The works are hung like curtains in the windows of exhibition spaces, or displayed on gallery walls via light boxes, engaging the notion of filmic suture in a reconfigured form.
As digital formats displace movie film, I draw from film history to create one possible future for celluloid. My work connects experimental filmmaking methods to the forgotten history of early cinema, which borrowed sewing machine mechanisms for advancing sprocket holes and employed women as editors because of their agile sewing fingers. Images of hands at work – weaving, dyeing cloth, feeding fabric into machines – are repeated throughout this body of work, reminders not only of my labor and the handcraft history of film editing, but also of the tactile quality of film.
Smithsonian American Art Museum purchase through the Barbara Coffey Quilt Endowment © 2009, Sabrina Gschwandtner 2013.1
Gift of Chris Rifkin in honor of the fortieth anniversary of the Renwick Gallery © 2010, Sabrina Gschwandtner 2013.2