Edith De Chiara:
Informed by Nature

July 10 - October 16, 2001

Reception: September 20 from 5:00-7:00 pm


Edith De Chiara's mixed media works probe the complexities of nature, the passage of time and interior states of mind. This exhibition focuses on recent work–a series of collages, drawings, and works on canvas begun six years ago–in which she explores thread as a metaphor for line. De Chiara references nature as a source of imagery, creating a calligraphic, gestural line that physically describes the external world while evoking mood and alluding to the internal emotional life. These intimately scaled works hint at landscape, plants, rocks, microscopic organisms and the cosmos.

Among the earliest from this series, a group of works entitled Bound /Unbound (1999), probes emotional and psychological territory in visual terms. Coinciding with

De Chiara's retirement, these works explore a range of feelings–from the sense of disorientation one experiences when released from the constraints of schedules to a metaphorical look at the "push and pull" of human relationships. The surface is literally stitched in these works. The thread creates a forceful, controlled line, drawn with a needle in a classically feminine medium. Some of these lines are well ordered and regimented; and others burst free in literal "loose ends."

De Chiara's work throughout is involved with process and materials. She works primarily on paper that is often mounted on board or wood panel. The process begins with staining, using inks and watercolors to prepare the paper surface before the thread is introduced. The palette is earth toned. Encaustic or cheesecloth is added in


Detail from Gestural Impulses, 2001


some works to enrich and reinforce the ground. The latter imparts the look of a papyrus scroll or ancient parchment. Sometimes the ground preparation includes rubbings from the surface texture of earlier works, physically connecting the new works to the series. This technique can be seen in the Bound/Unbound group and in works such as Circular Pathways, 1999. The white lines produced by the rubbings provide an indirect drawing methodology as well as a visual progression from earlier work.



Found objects are also included. De Chiara at various times has included leaves, stems, and seeds. In Silver Dollars #2, 1999, she incorporates a seedpod from the lunaria plant found in her garden. In Circular Pathway, 1999, De Chiara has added lengths of crocheted thread. Their tight clusters and loosely formed loops create a meandering line, a reminder that destinations are not always plotted as the shortest distance between two points.


More recently a frayed satin coat lining offered a new material to explore. In works such as Gestural Impulses, 2001, skeins of lines are developed by ripping the fabric and applying it to the surface with jade glue. Illusions of space emerge. The structure is open and one loses a sense of the vertical and horizontal plane in a boundless space. This change allowed De Chiara an opportunity to draw without stitchery while maintaining the controlled line of the earlier works. In other works such as the Linescape series (2000), the thread which describes the growth and structure of plants, almost seems subject to the effects of sun, water, and gravity.


De Chiara’s drawings are marked by the texture of the thread and their surface imagery records the physical process of their making. Built in successive layers, they bring to mind archeological stata and suggest the passage of time.

Edith De Chiara, well-known art educator and author retired from Lehman College in 1996 where she taught for twenty-eight years.


—Susan Hoeltzel


Detail from Untitled, 1997



Linescape1, 2000