Artist Statement:

The Family Secrets is constructed of family letters, my mother’s knitting instructions and my dad’s calendars. It is about the energy contained in the documents left behind, intra-family communications between all the members. Many of us have the paper trail of our family, and wonder how to preserve, protect and defend these precious items. Do we pass them on to our kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews? Or do we send them to the shredder or burn them in a ritual pyre?

In my case, it took me 10 years to begin going through my parents’ paper trail and making these decisions. So much went into the shredder.  But there was one file of family letters from my mom and dad to each other, and to-and-from various family members.  I sat down and read all of them.  Mostly they were letters that I didn’t want to look at again. Many were sent in anger, asking forgiveness, making apologies, accusations, or elaborate justifications. With the exception of one very precious one from my father, which I kept intact, they were a riot of family drama, our own ugly reality show!  They had their own lively energy, but they did not need to live on!

My solution was to shred them and then use them to build something new, a woven installation full of love, tears, human flaws and a desire to do better. This installation is constructed of hundreds of 11 x 11 inch squares, with the shredded letters woven together. The intention is to contain this energy, protect the confidentiality of my family members while transforming it all into order and pattern. The mark making and simple soft whites and off whites, and occasional black and red or stamped envelope provide a hint of color and a hint of the fiery emotions hidden here. After constructed, the panels, were “encausticated” so that the paper becomes transparent, revealing the layers of text and meaning.

The artist books exhibited all contain elements of my practice: accreted surfaces, repetition of form and or pattern, constructing bundles, including family letters or photos, concealing information, making order from chaos. Tea culture has intrigued me for many seasons. For years, I’ve experimented with all parts of the tea bag and tabs. Keeping Tabs is a celebration of the tea tabs and strings, and neutral palette. Within these structures, I explore identity, security and privacy.

Daniella Woolf holds an M.A. in Textile Structures from UCLA. She is a recipient of the Gail Rich Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship. She is the author of two books, Encaustic With a Textile Sensibility, The Encaustic Studio, and a curator and producer of instructional encaustic DVD’s. She has taught encaustic all over the US, and in Australia, Italy, The Netherlands and Canada. Her work is exhibited internationally and is in many collections and publications. She designs stencils for Stencil Girl Products, under the name Dotty Stripes, and is the Co-President of the Lucky Girls Society.

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