Ann Shostrom


Ann Shostrom drives –and sews– against the grain. She pursues the reverse commute of the bourgeoisie. Shostrom teaches and maintains her studio in rural Pennsylvania and thus drives back to the city at weekends and summers while others are fleeing to the country. Her studio is a cluttered, rag pickers den where she assembles fabric work from, on and with old (and, for sure, sometimes new) garments, bed sheets, rugs, flags, tarps and towels. Imposed upon all these materials by the artist are a series of amendments and assaults. By staining, sewing, embroidering, bleaching and tearing the fabric she organizes it into novel arrangements while drawing upon the extant qualities of the fabric, be it a camouflage pattern or a stain from some bodily fluid we may or may not care to know about. The results are works that often court the rectangle but finally shy away from such a genuflection to painting’s resilient prop. Absent too are the anonymous supports of the painter’s toil, to wit there are no stretchers or other subservient performers. All involved are democratically present.

With such work there is no blank canvas or page upon which to begin ones endeavor. Awaiting Shostrom is a rich –or poor– history in that much anonymous work has already been done to produce the given garment or tarpaulin. Whereof anonymous presences haunt the work, some are pulled into the foreground by Shostrom, some pop up like surprise guests. And, unlike painting, where the work done to produce the canvas –the warp and weft of the fabric– is easily suppressed, the brazenness of a garment or rug insists. It insists that it will not be made invisible and so its presence is worked by the artist.

Thus, we find Shostrom’s embroidered trails and coils at work as local color or incident across larger fields of melodramatic stains. We have the act of bleaching sometimes subtracting color, sometimes detouring it toward another hue further along the spectrum. Sewing introduces, for example, armholes in the midst of flat fields of color or pattern while draping transfigures the architecture of the installation space as in her recent show, Fusion, at Elizabeth Harris.

All the actions taken by the artist in her studio double themselves because of their potential other history and other life. Some resonate as craft practice, while some skirt an ambiguous territory between intention and accident. Take staining, it is at once a modernist painting practice but also a blemish to be removed or venerated. (For the latter think Turin.) Working out these equations between art traditions and craft conventions, between industrial production and hand-making, the intended and the ‘found’ is the daily practice that has Shostrom in her studio corralling the fabric rubble of the world.














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