Fiber artist Wolfie E. Rawk explores disabled and trans identities in his work, and is a spinner, which I find tremendously exciting because I’d really like to learn to spin. He also works with youth artists, and is ‘currently facilitating a series of collaborative queer quilting bees with fellow queer, transgender and allied folks in West Philadelphia with the help of a Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant.’ I think it’s official: I have a new Art Crush.
Here are are some of Rawk’s pieces:
‘Body Mapping–Never Give Up’ is an embroidery on canvas piece that I find intensely visually interesting. Interacting with it personally, it speaks to a lot of the disassociation I feel from my own body as a transgender person struggling with the aspects of my body that are not in alignment with my gender identity, and also to my own ongoing exploration of my body, and the social attitudes about body and propriety that act to reinforce the sometimes overwhelming disassociative emotions I experience.
Rawk erases and recreates drawings to mirror an epileptic view of the world in which grounds are swiftly changing underfoot, identities are erased and recreated and cultural knowledge comes by personal directives.
You can see a video interview with Rawk here (with a spinning demonstration!). Here’s a transcript, kindly provided for me by Rawk:
My name is Wolfie E. Rawk and I moved to Philadelphia in 2008, and I came here because of the queer, transgender and arts community. My medium of choice is fabric art and fibers. And this piece is called, tentatively, “Stick with your kind” I think it’s about violence and being trans. It’s like, “stick with your kind,” like, someone else telling you that but also internally thinking that for safety. Well, I use fabric as a medium because I think it’s really utilitarian, being a transgender and disabled person I have like a really fragmented view of realities sort of? Or like, like, I have epilepsy and when I have seizures it’s kind of like it can be, like, a really violent jarring break from reality, or it can be this really sort of like soft like sedated experience. I make my own yarn, some of it is like this stuff right here. Using fabric in my work I can like mirror this sense of violence that I’ve had internally and also, like, done to me. And I can sort of make steps to heal that by sewing the pieces of fabric or by mending them or kind of recreating this sense of reality that more matches my internal existence. I think art for social change, in my interpretation, is kind of…there’s an internal process where art can be very healing or have this really healing power that can kind of soothe wounds that are inflicted on people, either on an individual level or on a community level. My visual experience as a person with epilepsy is like having this really like double time, superimposed, fragmented reality when I have seizures sometimes. The visuals just like hit me, kind of like almost like hit me in the eyeballs. (laughs) It’s hard to explain, but I think that’s why I layered the tissue paper so much and also had this violent aspect of tearing it. I think that I wanna continue working with transgender and queer people on, like, community healing projects. I think that having that extra money just really invigorated the project, like, I wouldn’t have been able to get a spinning wheel or like the batting for the quilts or a quilting frame, things that are really important that I could have done the project without but it would have been a lot harder I think. My epilepsy as well, it’s kind of like this repetition of like the seizing and the convulsing and how that can actually be calming I think. There’s a lot of ableism out there that looks at disability like it’s undesirable or like it’s kind of like a life experience that isn’t worthwhile or kind of like should be bred out of people. But I don’t experience it that way at all, I wouldn’t give it up. (laughs) Like art and social change for me, kind of, lifts up those voices that are routinely suppressed or ignored or shut down and it gives them space in the world (laughs).