Denise M Smith
“Telling Yarns”, is a series of photo emulsion screen prints incorporating imagery of traditional female art forms, knitting, weaving, and spun yarn, to give a voice to contemporary women’s stories from a myriad of diverse experiences drawing from personal, family, community, religious, and broader cultural contexts.
The term telling a yarn, or spinning a yarn is believed to come from sailors back in the 1800’s. It refers to telling a story that may be exaggerated or altered. In these yarns I’m interested in exploring the internal emotional state behind people’s experiences as well as celebrating the power of taking control of one’s environment. Although not all these stories are unique to women; I’m struck by how even today, women’s voices are more often diminished or unheard.
The piece that began the series is Knitting Tears. For me it was a way to interpret the pain my best friend was experiencing before she took her life. The shock of this unexpected act lead me on a journey to seek out some degree of understanding of what she was feeling. I chose to use knitting as a motif to tell her story because she was an avid knitter. In the print her tears become her knitting before transforming back into tears. From there I began to explore and give voice to other women’s stories.
Over time I expanded the work to encompass larger socio-cultural stories. Historically women have been more likely trapped by religious and societal circumstances. In many religions women have no control over their own lives and are barred from self-expression. As women begin to age, they experience a decline in their visibility within their community while men are less likely to have this experience until much later. I’ve been using traditionally diminished women’s artistic forms such as knitting and weaving in my work as a launching point for a new dialogue that recontextualizes who we are.