The Cutting (& Stitching) Edge – Rachel Bernstein


Contemporary embroidery art via Mr X Stitch

Rachel Bernstein is a fibre artist from New York.

Her anatomically inspired fibre pieces intrigued me and I sought to find out more:

In some of my work, I depict the body’s interior, challenging conventions of beauty. Inner organs are often presented as a subject of horror or, perhaps, clinical interest. But organs are as beautiful as the contours of our exteriors. I depict components of the digestive, circulatory, and muscular systems using organic materials such as felt and needlepoint to emphasize the delicacy and fragility of inner organs. They transform those parts that we least like to see into objects of exquisite and gentle intrigue.

“Handmade felt and needlepoint have been denigrated as craft media, rather than media of fine art. I reclaim these marginalized media by using them to depict things that have traditionally been displayed in medical academies rather than ladies’ dressing rooms. The soft textures and delicate patterns serve to redefine body parts as objects of art, which can be viewed without repulsion by those who have been shielded from them.

“Media and subject matter take on new meaning when taken from their usual context and brought together. Rather than clashing in an uncomfortable tension, the soft materials coalesce with the body’s interiors and give rise to forms that are approachable and even inviting.”

We’ve seen, from the fantastic work of Moxie, that when felt is used to recreate realistic objects it provokes unusual reaction. The contrast of hard and soft forces a reconsideration of the original form, and Rachel’s work deploys this same mechanism. The content is macabre but the felt negates that feeling and literally softens the impact.

To explore Rachel’s other work, including her fascinating installations, visit her website.


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