Her husband’s shirts may have helped Michelle Forsyth, associate professor of painting and drawing at Washington State University, win a $7,500 fellowship for career success recently.Of the 18 recipients of 2013 Artist Trust Fellowship awards, Forsyth, the WSU Fine Arts department’s painting coordinator who has had shows across the country and internationally, was one of only three east of the Cascades.
Artist Trust, based in Seattle, supports and provides grants for Washington state artists working in creative disciplines.
“Most recently, I’ve been making paintings and weavings that are all based on my husband’s shirts,” Forsyth said.
And the Canadian-born painter just returned from the Penticton Art Gallery in British Columbia, where WSU professor Chris Watts and she installed an exhibition dubbed “Push/Pop.”
“We showed together because we have a lot of overlaps in some of the inquiries we’re investigating in our work, mainly pattern, sequence, color, repetition, those kinds of things, although we approach them in different ways,” Forsyth said.
Forsyth also has artwork displayed in Tennessee, New York and at a traveling exhibit at Hollins University in Virginia.
Her recent work, Kevin’s Shirts, are both paintings and weavings. Mostly square works, she creates solid plaid designs, and life-like paintings or woven works.
“They started out just kind of with a simple investigation into shirts, by doing one-by-one studies with goauche on paper and then it’s evolved into weaving copies into the fabric, doing larger ones … and doing paintings now more akin to still life paintings of his shirts piled up,” she said.
Her larger pieces can range nearly 6 feet wide, but her woven pieces remain around 10-by-10 inches.
“I learned (how to weave) last summer from YouTube. I just found this loom on the Weaver’s Guild site and I bought it and I taught myself how to weave,” Forsyth said. “It was something that I just felt like it was almost as if I knew how to do it.”
While Artist Trust has no requirements for how the money is spent, except for $500 on a lecture or presentation, Forsyth is not quite sure how she wants to spend the money.
“I’m just going to focus on doing a bunch of weaving for a while and also painting some … I’m just going to continue the work I’ve been doing,” Forsyth said. “But I want to do some large scale works and this grant will enable me to do that.”
Forsyth plans to continue art and explore a landscape-sized piece in the future. She said she plans to donate a piece to Living in the Garden, a benefit for the Museum of Art at WSU in July.
“When I make work, it’s about getting into that flow. And if I explain it correctly, it’s this space that you enter where time almost does not exist,” Forsyth said. “It’s like knitting. When you knit, or when you swim or when you run long distance — I try to get into a space that’s akin to that. So it’s a space that’s meditative, cathartic and a space for contemplation. And I feel like I open up time by making work in that space.”
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