My jaw dropped upon entering Margot Quan Knight’s studio several weeks ago. This work has as ornate quality that summons the history of decorative arts and adornment.
Knight’s past work began in photography, but has slowly shifted to objects in the past several years. She is exploring different ways to record an object’s presence without the actual object being in the final piece. The name of her current project is Synecdoche: a part for the whole. A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something (for example, saying “eyeballs” to refer to website visitors). Margot uses photographic and printmaking processes to reduce a whole object (a doily) to a trace. The doilies, a historic form of woman’s work, are seen differently in aluminum foil, printmaking and large cyanotypes made with light sensitive fabric. The results are beautiful, opulent, and ethereal. They remind one of the Tibetan sand mandalas painstakingly made, but meant to represent non-attachment as the wind blows them away.
The larger cyanotypes are engulfing, as one gets lost in the intricacy of pattern. We see each thread and are reminded that the doilies are crocheted by hand. This art form, where women loving made these textiles for family and friends, is now close to obsolete.
Women at one point in history were required to perfect this sort of handwork before mechanized making and the industrial revolution. Now, much like these skills, the doilies are gone; what is left is a ghost of their existence.
Knight has pulled the doilies so far out of context that the viewer may not know what created the images. She has transformed one object into another. Each media she uses is a different way to reveal the beauty of intricate labor.
This project is supported by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.
Post by Debra Baxter, debrabaxter.com