Silk reveals its soft touch and capricious core in a new exhibition of works in downtown Bloomington.
For artist Jenni Bateman, silk is more than a method of expression. The material works also as a meditation device in her latest collection, “Healing Series: The Faith Process,” currently on view at the Art Vortex Studio and Gallery in downtown Bloomington through Sept. 16.
The show includes large hand-painted silk panels, as well as intimate silk work under glass, scarves, sarongs and cards.
“We all have different stages of life,” Bateman explained. “And at this particular stage of my life, I’m looking and saying, ‘Do I have anything to heal?’ And yes, we all do.”
“We have things that happen, we have people who come into our lives and leave our lives. This particular series is all about how long it takes. If you reach toward that 24-carat gold leaf that’s on my work, you’ll suddenly find that healing moment.”
“It doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a process, just like everything else.”
She takes the painted silk into the sewing studio and further embellished the works with additional materials, adding texture and light.
A trio of Bateman’s small silk paintings under glass depict dancing figures.
“Even one of the figures has a little tutu,” Bateman laughed, pointing out the added bit of material. “They throw their hands up in the air, they’re walking on water. Much like Peter in the new testament when Jesus said, ‘Hey, Peter, get out and go back to the land’ and Peter started out of the boat and suddenly started to sink. So, there’s an opportunity to trust. I have to trust this process, I have to trust the aging process, I have to trust being a girl, a young woman and then as I age, how am I trusting that female side of me.”
Bateman began working with silk when she was 12 years old, painting on the fabric in a style she described as neurotic.
“It drives you insane because the dye that is created for silk actually is a bonding process. It will completely take over the silk unless you put Gutta Resist on the fabric. It’s a rubber that you use to create a little bridge around the shape you want. Once you touch the dye to the silk, it only spreads to the edge of the Gutta.”
Bateman will make a sketch of her idea along the fabric, then apply to Gutta Resist along the lines of her sketch before applying the dye. The process calls for a plan and for discipline.
“There’s freedom in discipline,” Bateman declared. “It’s a model that my dad instilled in me when I was young. Once you understand a particular discipline, whether it’s music or theater or dance or dimensional work, once you really understand it, you can let go of the discipline, and there’s the freedom in it. So yes, you have to enter into it with a plan. But then you can let go of the process because it’s part of your DNA.”
Billowing against the moving air in the studio are some of Bateman’s long hand-painted silk panels. One 10-foot long panel is part of a proposal that Bateman has made to a team of architects she’s working with in Sarasota, Florida. They’re constructing a new building, heavy on the concrete and steel.
“This long panel is part of what I propose to these architects to add a female side and movement to all of those hard surfaces.”
Bateman sources her silk from China. “So, any kind of tariffs will impact the silks I use.”
There’s different levels of silk, such as chiffon and charmeuse. Having worked with textiles all through her life, Bateman is well acquainted with the particular personalities of the various types of silk and how they work in her art, and she’s unwilling to give up working with the high-quality silks from China.
“I’ll put up with the increase in cost. China silk is so refreshing and it’s consistent. I know my silks and I know what I need to know so I can let go of that discipline and find the freedom in the process.”
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