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This blog gives me a great privilege: interviewing amazing artists working with textiles or from the fiber art world. Today I am more excited than ever about the artist I am presenting because Victoria Manganiello truly has a special something. Victoria has an Italian, and more precisely Tuscan, background, but she lives in Brooklyn. She loves reading while gently cradled by a hammock in the warm sun. She enjoys Bergman’s films. Her favorite place in New York City (the Mother of all cities!) is the subway, where she can observe an immense, extremely diverse community gathered in that slightly mysterious place. But let’s get to the point. Victoria and her loom. A human element and a mechanical one, creating amazing things in perfect harmony. More than with any other artist, Victoria’s works speak for themselves. Her works are textile canvases in which threads and paint weave together in a perfect dance. A dance orchestrated by the rhythm of the loom, in which warp, weft and brushes trade places very naturally. And the colors! Oh, how harmonious they are! Not to mention the message underlying these masterpieces. I do not want to reveal everything, though. So I am going to let Victoria speak for herself.
DHG: hi Victoria. You live in Brooklyn but your surname sounds Italian to me. Am I right?
VICTORIA: hello! I live in Brooklyn but you’re right—my surname is Italian. My great grandparents moved from Lucca, Tuscany to Brooklyn in the 1920's. My parents left Brooklyn and moved to the suburbs when my sister and I were born but, serendipitously, after graduating college I returned to Brooklyn. Not far from where my family first lived nearly a century ago. I live in a vibrant and charming Italian neighborhood called Carroll Gardens in South Brooklyn.
D: who is the person who most influenced your life?
V: this is a difficult question to answer because I am fortunate to have many nurturing mentors in my life. But I’ll share with you an important experience I had as a teenager. In my youth I always had an interest in art and design. When I was about 16, I joined a friend and his parents for a visit to a museum where his mom asked me who my favorite artist or designer was, and why. I choose Lloyd Wright. Before we left the museum, she purchased, “Studies and Executed Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright,” in the gift shop and gave it to me as a present. She explained the importance of knowing about the work that preceded what we had seen that day. Only by knowing the past could we influence the future. She was kind and supportive.
D: what are the recurring themes in your art, the philosophy behind your work?
V: cloth is an incredible space for metaphor. Many cultures use it in folklore or with idioms such as “to weave in and out [of something]” or “[to be] cut from the same cloth.” It is the perfect visual manifestation of concepts like cooperation or stability, fragility or intimacy, and it is the literal reorganization and transformation of line. My paintings are a quest to understand time, to illustrate the interruptions that complicate our understanding of it being linear. I use abstraction to open a space for a viewer to impose their life’s timelines, to contemplate along what variety of lines they may be living.
D: your works are incredible. Textile works of art painted with amazing skills. Can you describe your creative process?
V: thank you for your kind words. My process is very technical and process based. Immersive and intuitive. I dye the yarns before, during, and after weaving with them—essentially constructing the physical canvas while simultaneously developing its visual surface. In many cases, I hand spin the yarns, which means I start with raw fiber directly from an animal or plant and then dye it with a dye I mix personally. In the last year, I have focused completely on using natural materials. One of my favorite things about weaving and the woven structure is that it takes a meticulous process and a particular set of tools to complete—you must pay close attention to math, alignment, and tension. But in the end, you create an organic product.
D: your paintings have a majestic visual impact. They convey an idea of solemnity but they are not made heavier by excessive pomp. How did you achieve this style, which is so personal and easily recognizable?
V: thank you for this observation. It brings me great joy. The process of creation is very personal and each piece is a product of who I am and what is happening in my life at the time. I am inspired by my materials, and the colors I mix and the fibers I spin inform the work that follows. I always like to point out that cloth is familiar to everyone—no matter your gender, class, creed, or nationality—every human daily interacts with it intimately. So, I think a viewer of my work may find a connection, even if subliminal, because they are already familiar with the medium. From birth to death we are never separated from the materials with which I work.
D: what is the message behind ‘Get Me Out Of Here’?
V: “Get Me Out of Here” was the first of many geographical panel installations. I am interested in what makes us the same in a world where we are constantly differentiated. The world map can be explored from many angles to demonstrate this. But for the political lines and demarcations, we all live on the same earth. With “Get Me Out of Here,” I gathered information of the history of the USA’s “controversy” with other nations since its founding in 1776; then, I drew lines with thread on the maps I wove between those places and the USA. In later explorations of this form and subject, I have illustrated the map from political and info-graphic perspectives, as well as with geological ones with the illustration of Pangaea
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