The medium of tapestry weaving allows me to create images and cloth at the same time. The tactile experience of working with fiber, along with the depth of color and richness of the woven surface excites and drives me. I find the process of creating cloth and image satisfying as it ties me to my past and my Grandmother who taught me to sew at an early age. She instilled in me, a love of creating with my hands and an appreciation for good cloth.
Using images from burlesque, belly dancing and drag, I am creating a body of work of women baring their bodies in dance and performance art. Using stage names to dramatize their alter ego, these performers create new personas, as they expose themselves in a way not done in their everyday life. My intention is to use tapestry to capture the performers’ risk-taking, while also challenging the objectification of women. My work also explores the tension, perhaps contradictions, between stripping for self-actualization and being objectified. The “Burlesque Series” is motivated by the personal choice of dancers and performers to bare our bodies not to please men, but to praise and empower ourselves.
The dichotomy of the ancient medium of tapestry used to express contemporary subjects is a powerful tool. In my work, I use this dichotomy to make a statement that leads the viewer to question traditional conventions.
Barbara Burns began weaving in 1992 after studying interior design and textile and costume conservation at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. In 2003 she took her first tapestry workshops. Burns has studied with several excellent tapestry teachers including Archie Brennan and Susan Martin-Maffei in New York and Pat Taylor at West Dean College in England.
Burns’ newest figurative tapestries exploring sexuality and exposure are influenced by her experience as a burlesque and belly dancer. Often working larger than life, Burns’ images of dancers are accosting. Her previous study of faces represents both historical and contemporary subjects. Burns’ work has exhibited internationally in solo and group shows, winning awards from as far as Serbia and the UK. She teaches and lectures about tapestry and has published writings on the subject.
Burns is currently working on a series of three dimensional tapestries of wearable corsets. The first of which is influenced by the Apocalypse tapestry in Angers France. Burns says: “There is a deep well of connotations to be drawn from the corset and I want my viewer to draw from that well.”