The Fire and the Knife

Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects

Opens Friday October 30, 2009

The Fire and the Knife continues my practice of storytelling through textiles, this time exploring the themes of sacrifice and rebirth.

Drawing from Biblical stories (the tale of Abraham and Isaac is the source of the exhibition’s title), and fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast and The Story of a Mother, the work explores how a sacrifice can lead to reaching a higher level of knowledge, spirituality or happiness. This idea follows naturally from my previous exhibition, The Revelations of Anna Ward Brouse, which explored the Masonic ideals of labour and challenge as a way to gain degrees of self-improvement. Indeed, the fictitious Anna Ward Brouse ladies' society continues to act as a narrative scaffold in The Fire and the Knife.

The pieces, which include large hooked rugs, inlaid patchwork hangings, playing cards, dioramas, and installation elements, are conceived as teaching aids reminiscent of banners handmade for Sunday school classes or Girl Guide meetings. The visual language is drawn from board games, medieval frescoes, Masonic imagery and nineteenth-century Pennsylvania Dutch illustrations, resulting in imagery that feels familiar yet obscure. By creating visual connections among the pieces, I encourage visitors to link and decode the stories being told.