Meet

Stacey Beach

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I grew up in a small town in upstate New York and currently live in Berkeley, California.
Did you go to art school?
I have an MFA from California College of the Arts.
When did you begin your current practice?
What I consider to be my current practice began in grad school, 18 years ago.
Why did you choose to work with textile?
About eight years ago, I began quilting as a creative side project to my painting practice. I was searching for an outlet that had no connection to the mainstream ‘fine art’ world as it was known then. I wanted to create work that was not meant to be hung on a gallery wall. I was searching for creative freedom. By doing so, I found a language I felt as my own, a connection to what women have done before me in history; create with textiles, works that were never considered for recognition. Not because they wouldn’t have wanted it, but because it, and they, weren’t considered valid by the patriarchy. Throughout male-dominated art history, women have been sidelined from the conversation of working in traditional art forms and discounted when expressing themselves through what was downplayed as ‘the decorative arts.’ I found a renewed energy and freedom in my practice through this rejection of the medium on which art history had regaled. I became very excited about stripping off the paint and focusing on the textile (canvas) underneath as the subject and medium.
What led you to this process and how did you know it was the right one to pursue?
It has been a process to get to where I am now, something born from my painting practice. I work now, just as I did with paint. I leave the majority of my canvas exposed as a white ground. In my paintings, I began by distilling information in a very edited version of form. I have always been inspired by the economy of poetic verse; how it sometimes can paint a fuller picture than 1,000 words. My process involved a lot of masking and hand drawn pattern in these earlier works. I later incorporated collaged, acrylic transfer in gouache works on panel. In all my paintings I worked on an absorbent ground that pulled my paint into the ground rather than sitting on top, just as the acrylic transfer pulled the collage into the ground. My process was constantly evolving. By the time I began quilting and had the pieces of fabric in hand, my mind was already trained in how to handle them. I did not look at fabric as pieces that need to be sewn in rectangular edges as a traditional quilter would. I also did not want my pieces to be glued on top of a fabric or appliquéd to achieve round shapes. Just as in my paintings, the material had to be part of the painting, not sitting on top. Craft had been an important part of my painting practice and I feel just as strongly now, if not more, about the craft being honored by the sewn stitch in my textiles works.
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
I have often been interested in uncomfortable moments in my work, when the work is sitting right on the edge of too pretty or too ugly. I like work that is slightly awkward, feeling very human.

Slant
I found a language I felt as my own, a connection to what women have done before me in history; create with textiles, works that were never considered for recognition. — Stacey Beach
Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
I’m very interested in process and the unexpected outcomes that come as a result. Part of this process is exploring drawing with the fabric. I begin with a sketch, translate that form on to the fabric, cut it, and then join it with thread into the background fabric. The result is multiple steps away from the initial hand drawing, but the processes compound, leaving additional traces of the hand. I like the imperfect symmetry, the evidence of touch in the line, pull and stretch of the cloth as well as the line of the drawn form.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
The tools I rely on most are pins, scissors, a sewing machine and staple gun. I’m always listening to either music or podcasts in my studio. For work that requires more creative thinking, I listen to music. This is when I am sketching, selecting fabrics or laying out a piece. I select music to have something that sets a mood in the background but doesn’t take up my focus. Once I am sewing, I can turn my thoughts to something external and listen to podcasts.
Slant
I have always been inspired by the economy of poetic verse; how it sometimes can paint a fuller picture than 1,000 words. — Stacey Beach
What’s a typical day in the studio like?
I always feel a sense of urgency in my studio, like there is so much I want to do and I want to squeeze as much as I can out of my time there. I work on several pieces at a time and depending on where I am in a series, I may devote the day to fabric selection, preparing pieces to sew, sewing. Some days need to be devoted to administrative tasks, like preparing images and applying to various opportunities. Cutting into the fabric is a big leap of faith, and I know a piece is not ready if I’m not excited to use my scissors or put it on the table to sew. That’s when the piece needs to sit, I’ll work on others until I find a way to resolve it or move on.
How do you choose your materials?
When I am scouring fabric stores for my materials, I am looking for fabric designs that have a certain non-specificity of mark to it. I also use fabric from clothing produced by big fast fashion brands. These pieces often have already reduced a certain of-the-moment pattern to a generic motif. Fashion, design, and art are always in a rotating conversation, and I like turning it back on itself through my material choices. I use the pattern as line, as another mark in the composition. I also create my own screen printed and hand drawn patterns fabrics. I am interested in how machine produced mark contrasts with methods that leave evidence of the hand; ie: drawn, screen printed, brush, or spray-painted line. In addition to the patterns, solid fabrics hold a depth of color in their threads, not simply coated on top, bouncing light in the texture of the weave. Some solid fabrics use different color threads for the warp and weft, resulting in a more complex color. All of the fabrics add texture, varying degrees of opacity and line to the work as well as color.
What’s next for you?
This is the question the entire art world is both asking now. I was preparing to show at Art Market in April with Kala Institute right before COVID-19 shut everything down. All in person exhibition opportunities have been put on hold, making sites like this invaluable to artists. We don’t know how many galleries will survive this shut down, but I have faith in us as a community. Artists are used to scrapping for space, creating opportunities where there are none and adjusting. For now, I am just working in my studio, using this time to work and write.

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