Textile artist Anna Von Mertens (1973-) creates hand-dyed, hand-stitched quilts that explore the convergence of history, science, art and time. Her quilts bridge the worlds of crafts and conceptual art. She uses dye and cotton fabric instead of paint and canvas, drawing on the traditions of craft-based labor and abstract painting. Playing off Walter Benjamin’s question of the aura in the age of mechanical reproduction, in the Portraits series, Von Mertens takes iconic portraits from art history and interprets an actual aura for each painting. Her process involves researching the relationship between sitter and painter, the character and personality of both, and the historical context of the painting. Creating a story about the subject, she used the coded color meanings from the art of aura interpretation to reverse engineer an aura for each subject: instead of finding meaning in the placement and variety of color, Von Mertens assigned meaning it’s “proper” color. Von Mertens paints dye onto fabric to create an aura in the same proportions as the original painting. Superimposed is a layer of hand-stitching that includes the silhouette from the source painting and the subject's chakra pattern. The result is a defined figure with an aura-like emanation.
Portrait Series - hand-dyed, hand-stitched cotton titled “Philip IV of Spain’s Aura, after Velazquez”. Dimensions: 24 3/4" x 20 5/8"
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