Brenna Maag: Textiles as Specimens

I have been posting a lot about Mission and I think you may already have picked up on my doily obsession. All the back and forth between Vancouver and Mission reminded me of an artist whose work I was told to look into, Brenna Maag. Yes, she too has the doily bug.

Brenna Maag, Observation of Wonder, Richmond Art Gallery

Maag’s website states that she “is a printmaker, sculptor and mixed media artist. Her most recent work, Observation of Wonder is the culmination of four years of observation and research into her relationship with textile practices, ecology and science. She is interested in creating work that uses found materials and that investigates our relationship with nature and domestic activities. She is a graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design and she likes to garden.”

Brenna Maag, Family Hortusaceae

aside from the obvious doily attraction, one of the aspects of Maag’s work that attracts me is her treatment of textiles as specimens. I have long been fascinated by museum representations of culture and have tried to address this in some of my textile installations. The notion of textiles as specimens is very appealing. As fibers fade and disintegrate, most of our knowledge of early textiles come from paintings and carvings rather than actual specimens. This may not be Maag’s focus but I find it an interesting correlation and one that I enjoy playing with.

Maag provides her doily specimens with latin names that relate to the classification systems for flora and fauna.  While developing my Flesh Paintings I spent a lot of time researching various terms used for mixed race people like my self. classification was a vital element to the colonial system. By labeling or classifying individuals both the individuality and commonalities were diminished. This allowed for a system that saw a mulatto, not an individual with a name, but as an other. Again, this is not what Maag is necessarily trying to bring attention to but is yet another way I am able to identify with her work.

Brenna Maag, Peasework Project

Another fascinating series, and the one that I first encountered, is her mail art. If you are not familiar with the mail art there are some links below but the main focus is a free, non-commercial exchange of art. Maag’s project is rather one-sided, in that she sent out postcards but did not intend to receive a direct response but rather to produce a personal reaction or reflection in the recipient. They are, non the less, an interesting series.

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