Carnegie Mellon University

Curators Statement by Candace Skibba

May 15, 2020

Skibba - Stitches in Time and Reality

Stitches in Time and Reality
Curators Statement by Candace Skibba

skibba_800x798.jpgWe are currently in an era in which there is heightened awareness of trauma, anxiety, connection and distance. It has taken a global pandemic for many people to accept the fact that trauma affects our physical and mental abilities, that anxiety makes decisions difficult, that connection and not consumption facilitates a sense of wellness.

What are many folks doing to pass the time and stave off the anxiety? Binge-watching, baking banana bread, and picking up crafts... Folks who haven’t useda needle and thread for decades are now trying to ameliorate anxiety by crocheting. By necessity, many are dusting off their unused sewing machines passed down from generations prior so as to stitch together whatever fabric available to make the item that is needed in order to carry out everyday tasks: the ever-present mask.

These masks facilitate other ways of dealing with the build-up of cortisol in our bodies due to stress –such as getting out into nature. Those of us able to venture outdoors with our masks on are the lucky ones. Children in Spain were only recently allowed outside after spending 45 days trapped inside. What happens when we step outside? When we enter into the awkward choreography of social distancing on a city sidewalk? When the cortisol can only be partly improvedby a hike due to the fear of contamination from the fellow humans in the park trying to be ‘healthy’.

The works comprising this iteration of the series Artistic Representation of Wellness in the Era of Social Distancing, explore these questions through a variety of media and perspectives. Alyssa Cypher leads us to consider concepts, such as mutual aid, that are being coopted in the COVID era. She weaves together words, textures, and dimensions so as to deconstruct the understanding of mutual aid, leaving the re-construction up to the viewer. The stitching process is echoed in Erica Nickol’s exploration of time, production, and connection. Through sewing, we can bring elements together that might otherwise drift apart. We can simultaneously repair an injury and create a memory of its existence. This physical joining of fabric and fiber to create something new is similar to the role of the photographer in creating a picture that simultaneously brings the viewer in -while reminding them that they are not, in fact, in the precise moment or place of the photo. Sean Carroll’s piecemelds timelessness and nostalgia with the reality of COVID-times through the juxtaposition of images and words. All three of these pieces prompt us to remember that the old can be made new, that new isn’t always better, and that the relativity of the passage time is so very presentduring this pandemic.

With that time, may we engagewith the art around us through walks,distance, connection and perspective –like the artists in this collection.

Candace Skibba is Co-Director of the CAS 'How Well?' Project and an Associate Teaching Professor of Hispanic Studies