Heather Rubinstein

Artist's Website

My work signals its history from the material properties of fabrics – what happens when fabrics are subjected to various procedures: folding, staining, dyeing, crumpling, cutting, stitching, sewing, patterning and brushwork. For my purposes, domestic fabrics such as bedsheets, drapes or table linens (always sourced from thrift stores) work better than traditional canvas. I like their porous and flexible qualities, as well as their status as recycled, repurposed products. My paintings are informed by postwar European abstraction and the Pattern & Decoration movement, but I try to avoid citation. I think I work like a phenomenologist – consciousness is “intentional,” that is, directed towards concepts, thoughts, ideas, images etc. – from a certain perspective. My certain perspective is that of painting in all its states, not as an object but as our experience of that object.

In many ways the work is concerned with feminism, which I address through using and misusing domestic items (drapes, bedsheets, household linens) by running them through the washing machine (as part of my process), after they've been stained or painted – and I’m aware of how that relates to the traditional domain of women. But the "Soft/Surface" works are also about a dialogue with art history, especially with the French 1970s movement Supports/Surfaces. I’ve been looking at artists like Claude Viallat, Patrick Saytour and Noël Dolla, and also Alberto Burri. Like a lot of those artists I work with unstretched supports (materials), on the floor or on the wall as I build the paintings. My paintings have a nomadic quality as I am making (sewing) and building them. I can fold them up and carry them in a suitcase, which is helpful since I travel often between New York and Houston. For me, the painting isn’t finished until it’s stretched – and this is an important point. The paintings often seem like they can be hung directly on a wall, like a drape, ala Sam Gilliam, but that is not what I am trying to achieve. Stretching them brings them back into the realm of painting.