Precious Substance – Episode 4 – Wendy Clough, Locating the Fiber of Life
Wendy Clough, Locating the Fiber of Life
Hayley and Laura interview Wendy Clough about the creative process behind, Out of Sight, a pen and ink landscape on repurposed linens and vintage wedding dress. Wendy connects with stories from the past and talks about the the role imagination plays in her work.
Producer: Laura Tyler
Concept: Wendy Clough, Laura Tyler and Hayley Williams
Editor: Andy Schwarz
Logo Design: Hayley Williams
Creek sounds recorded at Black Cloud Creek, Mt. Elbert, Colorado
Wendy, what were your initial ideas of the types of project you wanted to work on and how did they evolve?
I did have a lot of different ideas about how to respond to this show. I thought a lot about the people who would have come out west and why they might have left their homes Back East in the first place. We know that Ella Yount was from rural NY state and it made we wonder how bad things were for someone to be willing to do this really arduous journey and just start somewhere new and leave people and things behind. So, that concept. And then the concept of the people coming here and seeing the land as empty and seeing the prairie as empty and projecting their own ideas onto it. I learned that by the time they first cut the prairie grass for hay for the miners’ livestock it was only 30 years before there was like a full fledged agricultural fair. They were able to turn the land into an agrarian society so quickly and so purposefully.
What’s meaningful to you about that line of thought?
I guess I was interested in Ella Yount’s interior life and so what would enable a person to work that hard and own a mill and how she must have been a strong person to leave what she knew and then to be able to sort of live her vision. But of course all we have are really fragments of stories and my work that I’m doing right now for the show is a lot of drawing on fabric. I saw a picture in a book I have of women of the West where the pioneers stopped on their wagon train to have a picnic and took a photograph of themselves and they had a tablecloth spread out on a table and just that idea of bringing their own civilization or what they thought of as civilization to this new place and how insistent they were on that and how important it was. I think I’m trying to sort of construct this figure that might have incorporated a lot of strength and vulnerability at the same time.
Something that’s been really fun and interesting, for me, sharing this space with you in the studio is to hear your thoughts and see the process that you’ve gone through to arrive at this work that you’re going to make. And then I’m also thinking of another thing that you said kind of jokingly a few weeks ago that you never have the problem of not enough work you’re more likely to have a problem of too much work or lots to show and I loved that, that’s super inspiring to me. Would you say a little bit more about about your process and your quantity and how all of that flows for you?
Well I think that my ideas happen as I’m making things I think I need to be making things to have the ideas and I feel like the concept is very important with this show maybe more than with my other work. My work in my studio is a lot about nature being animated and sort of imaginary connections between humans and animals and um for awhile I tried think of Ella Yount in that way, too. Yeah so it’s the editing, I guess, that’s the challenge for me.
What do you mean by that?
Well I was thinking that when I was sayin it’s like I had too much work, It’s the stepping back and looking at what I have and then making decisions about what’s really working or not working that’s more challenging for me.
How do you even know if something is working or not?
It is so hard. I think well formally there is a question of whether something is working or not. I think that’s just a really hard question. It’s the same with speaking maybe when you have an idea and you’re trying to articulate it you know when you’ve been able to say what you mean. It’s the same with art if something works it’s because it says what I wanted it to say although becuase its not words it’s harder to clarify
Do you. Know what you wanted this work to say?
I want it to speak to the strength of this person and I want it to be formally interesting. It’s going to include fabric and stitching and I hope that that can speak to the aspect of domestic work and I hope it says something about feminism and imagination as well.
I’m wondering what you meant in particular with hoping to express imagination. Imagination of this time period. Ella Yount of something else.
I’m hoping that there’s like a hook or something that someone’s imagination could fasten on. I want the work to be able to draw someone in because it captures their imagination in some way like a participatory thing. I think it’s so cool that we get to use our imagination and our perspectives and our experiences from living in Boulder in 2023 to imagine something else
How does what you’re making relate to the title, Precious Substance?
Well, I think I’m still finding that out. But I want to somehow, I want it to be relevant in some way and then it would be precious. Like precious substance would be something historical that still has relevance for us like if we look at an old photo or that can still make us feel something even though it’s old. Something precious I think would come through time. I guess we’re all trying to figure that out. Maybe we won’t know until all the work is done. Ike oh this is the precious substance