Wylie Sophia Garcia

10 Chameleon


Describe your first experience with fabric and sewing? Is it a distinct memory that influenced and informed your creative practice today?

My first experience with fabric and sewing came from an Ann Hamilton Exhibition titled “Kaph” at the Contemporary Art Museum Houston http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com/projects/kaph.html. I was seventeen.  It was the first time I walked into an installation and felt like it sucker punched me in the gut.  She had made these curved walls that were sweating water and leading you like a cow to the slaughter.  There was a lone trapeze squeaking overhead making the whole journey through the space very anxious.  Finally, when I turned the last curve there was a woman sitting with a embroidered silk gloves and a seam ripper.  The woman was ripping apart the embroidery and it was in that moment that the anxiety within me released.  I don’t know what it was about that act, about what it was intended to symbolize, but I related to it.  I went back and saw that installation ten more times.

When I think about how this memory has influenced my creative practice I can’t say that there is a direct connection, like a literal connection.  It is more of a metaphysical connection; like how an action as simple as seam ripping embroidery on a silk glove can singly deflate the enormity of an overbearing experience.  I think of my art as a symbol or metaphor for experience.  In 2013 I had the opportunity to see a textile inspired exhibit called “SPUN”at the Denver Art Museum.  Ann Hamilton’s silk gloves from “Kaph” were there on display.  I cried. It was the first time I have ever been moved to tears by a work of art and not because of the art itself, but because of the experience it conjured up.

Is sewing ( hand or machine) therapeutic, contemplative, a break for you from bustling busy life?

No.  It’s a full contact sport.  It is contemplative, but more of a combative contemplative battle of wills between what my brains want to do and what my hands want to do and what the fabric wants me to do.

Your fabrics are like differing terrain or territories that you journey over and through with thread by hand, is this kind of mark making reflective of where you live in Vermont or other places in any way or are you following a particular concept and technique to achieve an effect? Explain

I have lived in Burlington, Vermont for 11 years.  I grew up in Houston, Texas.  Both of these places have very specific terrains that are so unlike the other.  I have no idea if the Vermont or Texas landscapes are playing a role in my art, but only because I don’t pay attention to the place itself as much as the people in it.  There is this Kant quote that has permeated my personal philosophy since college.  “Human beings are not placed, they bring place into being.”  I used to think of that as meaning that human beings ascribe meaning to objects to make them create a place of familiarity.  But now as I am older I realize it’s not about the objects, but about the people; people make places familiar, comfortable, home.

How does this relate to my mark making?  Well, when I am sewing I like to think about the people I know.  Those memories or conversations are what drive the “terrain” like mark making.  I may set off in one direction but change course, much like a conversation.

Can you elaborate on the specific kinds of historic textile techniques that you use in your installations and dresses?

Yes.  I use a lot of trapunto which is a traditional quilting technique.  Trapunto was intended as a way to create a decorative raised surface in quilting. It involves stitching a design and stuffing it with fiber fill.  The master trapunto crafts folk could do this without making an incision on the back side for stuffing. They would simply make a hole in the fabric by moving the threads out of the way and moving them back.  I make an incision.

Cloaking Device Front

Cloaking Device– Hand Needle, Felted Wool and Spandex, 2013


Cloaking Device Closeup

Cloaking Device, (detail) Hand Needle, Felted Wool and Spandex, 2013


Cloaking Device Back

Cloaking Device (back view), Hand Needle, Felted Wool ans Spandex, 2013


Land and the female form appear to be significant in your dresses, sometimes taking the viewer into a visceral, vascular, cellular realm as well as a topographical mapping of land patterns. Is there a relationship you are intentionally constructing that speaks to this in the underpinnings of your work? Can you illuminate what this might be?

The female body is very visceral by design.  It bleeds, It makes milk, it secretes fluids.  It is given organs that make life, support life, spark life, and seduce life. It is fascinating in all the shapes it can transform into and from, again and again as it reinvents itself physically through age and time.   I am a new mother, again.  And I approach this question from my own experience of having a body that has a mapped landscape of motherhood, stretchmarks, sags, pucks,and bulges.  The female body is a powerful landscape, not always beautiful or stoic.  It is an expression of change and comfort; a duality of strength and softness.  It is also biology, a collection of cells and information strung together to make us human, gendered, and a tangle of neurological information.  This information is also interesting to me.  Alongside the physical is the psychological which may or may not be born out of the physical (depending on what you believe spiritually), and I kind of sit in the middle of this in between place and hang out drawing inspiration.

Mothra, 2009

Mothra, Cotton, Wool, Thread, Sequins, 2009


How do you find your materials? are they found? have personal significance? bought specifically around the concepts of your individual dresses?

My materials come from all over the place.  I usually use what is donated to me or what I have personally in my own fabric collection or closet.  I no longer buy materials because I feel like I am more interested in the story old materials can tell.  Also the textile industry is very damaging to our environment.  Also, as a mother and half of a struggling artist duo (my husband, Clark Derbes http://www.clarkderbes.com is also an artist) I try to be as fiscally responsible as possible to my family and not overspend on art supplies. Also, I have a lot of clothes and when I feel that it is time to purge those clothes, they just get made into art, much like the Amish quilters or Gees Bend Quilters http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Quilts_of_Gee’s_Bend or old New England Braided Rugs… I think there is a whole historical concept of recycling clothes into something practical, beautiful and meaningful.

Your dresses feel as though they are characters, have roots with specific stories or people in your life, can you describe the relationship between your titles and female materiality?

The titles come as the dress is being made. When I did “The Dress That Makes The Woman Project” where I worked on and wore the same dress everyday for a month and then, in turn, did so for a year yielding 12 dresses, each dress embodied a certain persona by the end of each month.  So I tried to make the name reflect the personality. An example of this is the dress “Cupcake” http://www.wyliegarcia.com/#!Cupcake/zoom/c1k7w/image1u6i.  Every time I put the dress on I felt like a confection.   I also have to admit to referring to my dresses as individuals. I give them pronouns such as “she” and “her.”  They feel like specific people to me, especially when I am exhibiting a bunch of them in one space.  Then it feels like I am in a room full of my split personalities; it can be overwhelming at times and other times really funny, like being at a party or fancy social gathering.

How did you arrive at your signature style of staccato mark making, by accident or exploration to then choice?

It happened by accident.  I was working on my first dress for the Seven Below Residency here in Vermont.  I was under deadline to finish the piece because I wanted to display it for my MFA Thesis Show in Provincetown, MA.  I had a lot of ground to cover and needed to do so quickly and efficiently, so I just started sewing in these rows, which became patches, which would then switch direction when I became bored of the repetition.  When I was done it was like an “aha” moment for me.

How do you see the role of the artist today?

I have no idea how to even begin to answer this question.  I don’t think artists have a role anymore in the traditional sense of internalizing an aspect of the world and translating it into something aesthetic.  I don’t even know if they have the same responsibilities we once associated with being an artist.  Artists make art.  Some times  it is beautiful, sometimes grotesque, sublime, interactive, clever, political, and easy.  I find myself asking this question a lot though: why do I make art?  And I still don’t have an answer.

What strategies do you use in your practice that keep you on track?

Discipline and Rhythm.  I work every day if I am able. As the seasons change so do my priorites.  When it’s December it’s time to look at residency applications. In the spring I book shows. In the summer I work work work.  In the fall I exhibit and brainstorm new ideas.  In the winter I research and work work work.  Having kids makes it easy to work, I get to work soon as I have an hour or so to spare and immediately after bedtime.

You perform in your garments thus appearing to be the subject of your work – is it important that you are the content or are you a vehicle for the ideas behind these performances?

Yes, it is important that I am a part of the content and context of the work, especially in performances.  My art is personal. There may be times when certain tropes can be universalized, but I am primarily telling a narrative from my own point of view and I just don’t trust a stranger or performer or actor to tell my story in the same way I would.  I once hired a group of people to help me with stitching. They did an amazing job at helping me finish a huge installation, but since the mark making is not my own, I felt like there were parts of the overall piece that stood out. Never underestimate the visual power of one’s own faulty mark making.

Your 2D works remind me of a state of betwixt and between where veils of semi transparent materials hide in lurking spaces, paths and shadows form in a layering effect, which brings about a real state of impermanence or ambiguous temporality. Can you illuminate the trajectory of your new staccato works?

When I set out to make these works I knew that I wanted to shift from working with just the veneer or surface of the material.  I wanted the work to have a greater depth of vision and a saturated quality that really makes an audience spend time with it and look at all of the different layers.  I was also feeling ready for a pause with working in fabric.  I am still using fabric and layers as a theme, but using gouache and ink and graphite upon wooden panels instead.  As a surface, the wood has a feel similar to fabric and has the possibility to create great depth and layers.  As for a trajectory for the new works, that is hard to say because it is all still so new to me.   I can tell you what has changed and that is showing the work.  The fabric pieces were primarily shown in museums, art centers, and academic institutions.  The Ink Drawings are now finding homes in galleries and then in turn finding homes in homes of collectors.

Garcia_Dust Bunnies By The Lake_gouache graphite acrylic on carved wooden panel_30x114_$2400

Dust Bunnies by the Lake-ink, graphite, gouache and acrylic on carved wood panel, 2014


Garcia_A Trunk and A Little Hill_ gouache graphite acyrlic on carved wood panel_24x16_$2200

A trunk and A Little Hill– ink, graphite, gouache and acrylic on carved wood panel, 2014


Topography III

Topography III– ink, graphite, gouache and acrylic on carved wood panel, 2014


Does your 2D practice inform your garment constructions or performances? or are they separate?

They are related.  I make copious notes and drawings in notebooks and on the backs of envelopes or on scraps of paper about future ideas or about current motifs I want to further explore. Sometimes a drawing brings about the creation of a dress and sometimes a dress gets deconstructed into a drawing.  Regardless, it is all about the fabric and the way it moves and flows, whether in real space or as part of a 2D surface.

Are there particular historical or contemporary female figures that inspire  work?

Sharon Kopriva

Helen Miranda Wilson

Laura Letinsky

Kelli Scott Kelley

These are all contemporary hard working women who keep pushing boundaries.    I happen to know each of them and I am inspired by the ways in which they tell a story, play with the boundaries of image making and space/place making, as well as have the ability to make their audience “dig deep” when viewing their work.


All images are the property of Wylie Sophia Garcia. For more info visit Wylie at http://www.wyliegarcia.com 





ARTIST INTERVIEW – featuring Brian Zeigler



 Brian Zeigler is a friend of mine, an artist whose work involves play, the I ching, and thoughts on Charles Baudelaire. While his art sometimes responds to current events, his pictorial world reflects his belief in working the muscle of his intuition, chance and being in the ‘presence’ of this experimentation with materials.

The following interview flows from his context as a professional artist today rather than delving into the meaning behind the works I have presented here. These images therefore give us a glimpse into his visual world that leaves ‘control’ and ‘will’ all behind.

BZ- art work

Brian Zeigler- Untitled, 20 x 16 inches, mixed media collage, 2014

1. Tell us about your work. What is it that you do?

I draw. This is simply what I am committed to, and I believe in drawing. Even if everything I do appears different it is all drawing. I think of all of my work as drawings.

2. What experience(s) did you have that made you realize you were an artist? Were you encouraged because you had a natural inclination towards making things, did you get positive feedback from the universe when you made things? was the impulse guided by something mysterious within you?, and/or was it from inspiration when looking at a Rembrandt or listening to the Bee Gees sort of thing…

It has taken me along time to use that word “Artist” and I still have trouble calling myself that. Even though I spend a lot of time making what people would call art and have an MFA. I still find it difficult to use that word and feel awkward when I do. Not that I am against the idea, far from it, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without it. I think I was interested in this title when I was younger. The mystery and magic of making art was something I wanted to be a part of. Watching someone turn lines into a shark or a lion was super exciting and I wanted to be able to perform the same sort of magic. When I got older the word ‘artist’ seemed to carry the weight of privilege and with this weight a responsibility to use skills, talent, whatever we want to call it, to do something that mattered. By mattered I mean something that would somehow effect what is wrong in the world. This is a simple statement or I have put it in a simple way to say where my brain goes with the title of artist. This has been a struggle and is one I keep coming back to. The important thing and the thing which has made the most impact is that I keep coming back to this thing called ‘art’ and I have not given up. I still believe in it and am trying to find my way within it. I have been thinking more and more about those early experiences or memories and have been trying to give them the weight they deserve. What I mean is realizing the importance of those early events that made me say “yes, I want to continue doing this”, there is something here that will teach me what I have to learn. One of my earliest memories of this is drawing with my mom. My parents gave me a Disney drawing device. I say device because it was this blue plastic machine with rollers. A long plastic sheet was set into the rollers and using a china marker you could trace the Disney characters, then paint them and put a background behind them and roll the sheet. This I was told was how they made the cartoons I loved and being able to physically and visually understand the process was something that gave me immense pleasure. From that experience I went on to hone my skills of copying cartoons from the pages of the Sunday paper and the bad Saturday cartoons on TV. These were my biggest influences and the beginnings of my training in becoming an artist.

Brian Zeigler art work

BZ- BROKE, 36 x 24 inches, mixed media collage, 2014

3. Was this a liberating thing to realize or did the commitment seem overwhelming, thus you postponed or second guessed it?

I believe it has been both liberating and overwhelming. Making art is absolutely liberating in the time with mindfulness spent in the making. The creative process is the most rewarding experience in terms of personal meditation and health. I have found nothing better than consuming one’s whole self in the act of making. The absolute overwhelming part is how what is made should then live in the world, because for the process of making to be fully realized what is made must live.

4. How did you begin that journey after realizing you needed to make it? What steps did you take?

I took as many art classes as I could in high school and drew everyday at my drawing table at home. I went to college and pursued a BFA, majoring in life drawing. At some point after college I decided skill and talent were not enough and I began living. I put myself out in the world and did the things I believed in. I traveled the United States working and learning on organic farms. I became a baker and learned the magic of the rising dough. I worked with the elderly and children. I knew that more than being able to draw standing up and being a part of what I believed in would make me an artist. I am still on this journey of living while trying to connect the practice of making art to my ongoing experiences.

5. What keeps you making here in Vermont?

This is a good question and I mean it in how it sounds. For me I have just begun to make art in this place, I have been here since 2005, but the majority of what I have been making has been in a different time and place. This may be the answer the duel world of existence has much interest to me. The yin and yang of things. This exists because this does. I like black and white. I have been thinking about trees much more these days and rivers and snow, ice, rain and leaves. I have been settling into this natural landscape like a warm bath and it has finally found its way into my art.


Brian Ziegler's art work

BZ- Untitled, 48 x 144 inches, mixed-media, 2014

6. How do you start?

I start with play. Then I rely on intuition. Sometimes imagination but, always experimentation. Lately I have been trying to work with chance and I have always stayed open when working with the ‘accident’. I have stopped starting with knowing and become more comfortable with not knowing and admitting that. Most drawings start with a line and go from there. Decisions are made but the ‘being’ for me is unknown, I am just responding to the continuous moment of making. I like the journey the making takes me on. I like the interpretation of the viewer. Most of the time I don’t know what I am making until long after it is done and I have spent time in its presence. This is my truth; of being less of a seeker for the right answers, and moving from that place of ‘what I see’ and ‘respond to’ instead.

BZ'S work

BRIAN ZEIGLER, Untitled, 60 x 144 inches, china marker/ink on Yupo paper, 2014


BZ- Untitled, 60 x 144 inches, china marker/ink on Yupo paper


7. Do you think being an artist now is the all time best in the history of art, or do you see yourself suited to another time period?

I am certainly influenced by the AB-EX painters and a lot of the art that happened in the seventies, eighties and nineties. I think anytime I entertain the idea of being in another time period it is because I have the knowledge that what they were up to worked. Now creating is different, I use what has worked in the past to make the work I make. I do believe now is the best time because the past and the present coexist as they never have before and as artists we are free to do whatever we want. The pressure of being original is not hanging over our heads anymore, it has all been done.

 8. Who are those that have influenced you, who have you learned from and do you feel you need to pay homage to them in anyway? 

 I will say I learn best from reading the writings of artists I like. There are many but some of them are…Philip Guston: http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/multimedia/videos/178 , Julie Mehretu: http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/julie-mehretu , Mark Bradford: http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/mark-bradford , Mike Kelley: http://mikekelley.com , The Situationists: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/jan-d-matthews-an-introduction-to-the-situationists , John Cage: http://johncage.org , Walter Benjamin’s essays on Charles Baudelaire: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674022874  and older influences like Kathie Kollwitz: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Käthe_Kollwitz , Leonard Baskin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Baskin , Edvard Munch:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edvard_Munch .  The research I get the most out of is when I focus on a particular artist and read what has been written about them but even better if they themselves have done any writing or have done any interviews. So in that way I do think I owe them the time to really try and understand why I respond to they’re work by doing the research required.
Brian Zeigler art

Brian Zeigler, Untitled, 24 x 36 inches, mixed media collage, 2014

9. Do you think your work exists and flows within a tradition? why/Why not? Can you explain?
I feel now in this period of time we are living in as artists we can choose to do whatever we want. We can use any tradition, any time period, and  anything to express ourselves. I do in some ways still cling to the idea of mastery and this is what keeps me drawing the way I do. It is like the practice of Tai Chi; I want to achieve the perfect relationship between movement and breath or in the case of drawing hand and eye, but I don’t know that this has anything to do with saying anything important or not, just some hang up I hold onto, maybe as result of too many kung fu movies as a child, you know, the mastery of a particular practice, and mine just happens to be drawing which I try to push as much as I can.
10. Do you think the art of painting could radicalize like it did with the Impressionists, Cubists and Ab.Ex painters?
No, I don’t believe painting can radicalize the way it did in the past. We are living in a time of maximum image soaked reality and the slow process of painting is no match. Not that I don’t believe it is still relevant or important but definitely not radical. I would say that it is really barely visible amongst all the other options out there and possibly most cynically it exists for a certain customer who has newly emerged to fit in with they’re appreciation of high design, as something to accent the illusion of high end with a pinch of soul. This is a dangerous road of thought though and only leads to something much worse in this day and age then complacency, contempt. I for one refuse to level this sort of criticism at any fellow artist knee deep in the muck of making and instead save my anger for the things that need changing.
11. If you could would you overthrow the tyranny of tradition and/or how the contemporary art market works?
Yes, I would say anything that sells for over a certain amount of money say for the hundreds of thousands should no longer be considered art. If you are getting rich off of art it is no longer art.  That is sort of silly but the truth is art should come out of the life you live not out of the expectations of the market.
Brian Zeigler's art work

Brian Zeigler- Tracks, 49 x 144 inches, mixed media collage, 2013

All images are the intellectual property of Brian Ziegler. For more information about this artist feel free to visit his website at http://brianzeigler.com







A view of the back, dyed calico, designed collar-vest, and chain links that are still unfinished.

pen Sesame- back side view

Open Sesame- back side view. The tulle shirt here is so fine.

Open Sesame- sheer layer
Open Sesame- sheer layer of tulle with top or 4th layer of Jacquard vest





Chain Links-start

a close- up of Chain Links- a start and will add more over the course of the week