Into the World of a Textile Artist
THOM BENNETT PHOTOGRAPH
Looking at pieces in Christine Sauer’s Cluster Series isn’t enough. To really appreciate these multimedia textile constructions, you need to look into them.
This is stationary work, yet the details are so intricate, so varied and so tightly crafted that a piece seems to move as you glance from one spot to the next, rapidly noticing something new.
“The excitement I feel learning about the natural world inspires a lot of this,” Sauer says. “I want the viewer to have an intimate experience with it.”
Sauer completes the effect with a mix of stitching, embroidery, quilting and obsessively dense beading. Peering in, the lavish texture registers first and keeps going. Her work is not merely layered but swirling, looping and visually beguiling.
There’s excitement within these modestly sized, regally elaborate pieces, and that reflects an artistic energy Sauer has been stoking for some time. A native of upstate New York, she came to New Orleans in the early 1980s for graduate school. Her sculpture installations were featured in a show at the Contemporary Arts Center in 1988, but eventually her career as an arts educator overtook her studio work. She taught art in local public and private schools, including, most recently, a 15-year tenure at St. Martin’s Episcopal School. Eventually, this work with students brought her full circle.
“Seeing them creating in the moment, it helped me get my joy back for the creative process,” Sauer says. “Seeing them graduate and move on to new things, I felt like I wanted to graduate, too. I knew it was time for me to do something different.”
The Katrina experience steeled her resolve to begin a new chapter in her life. After a few years of preparation, she retired from teaching in 2010 and “rewired” herself for full-time studio work again, eventually fixing on the expressive potential of textile art.
Today, she draws from materials as varied as silk fabrics and window screens, shirt buttons and even bits of photos. It all goes into works that seem intuitively organic and exuberantly festive yet also remain persistently unresolved, with a disquieting backbeat somewhere between the stitches. For the viewer, it threads a path that’s open to interpretation and doggedly enigmatic.