about the artist
Elena Stokes works with repurposed sari silks, artisan dyed cottons and commercial textiles to create impressionist landscapes and abstracts. Tearing, layering and stitching add highly textured surfaces to her textile collages. The unending process of transformation is the primary inspiration for her work and artistic practice, from concept to construction.
Early artistic pursuits were in theatre arts where she earned an Associate of Occupational Studies from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. A chance course on quilt making at The New School/Parsons led Stokes to explore the visual arts through textiles. Mostly self-taught, her work has been invited and juried into numerous exhibitions, including Quilt National, has traveled nationally and internationally, has been published in numerous books and magazines and can be found in private collections throughout the US and Europe. For more than 20 years, Stokes lived and worked in New York City before moving to rural west New Jersey where she currently resides.
about my work
Moving from the claustrophobic, sensory overloaded environment of New York City to the tranquil open spaces of rural New Jersey was a transformative experience. Literally and figuratively, new horizons materialized. The horizon line is a symbol of that change and transformation. In my work, it has become more than a reference to my move from the city, it speaks to a shift in consciousness and to the endless process of transformation.
The structure of my work is founded on the basic elements of a quilt - three layers consisting of a complex surface, an interior batting and a fabric backing - all held together with stitch. The quilt maker's historical practice of reusing old clothing ties in with my reuse of discarded silk saris from India, saris imbued with their own history and carry the stories of the women who wore them. These silks have had their own transformative journey - created by silkworms, spun and woven into fabrics, worn by women until no longer serviceable, discarded then salvaged and somehow ending up in my studio half way around the world.
The beautiful silk sari remnants, torn and tattered, vary greatly in color, weave and weight, each bringing a variety of sheen, pattern and texture to my surface designs. It's a slow process of cutting and layering each piece of silk, pinning and re-pinning until they are fused and stitched into place. Quilting lines are long and horizontal, edges are left frayed and unfinished to support the sense of endlessness. The distressed quality of my layered and stitched textile collages adds to the visual and metaphorical language of the work which embraces the beauty of the imperfect and precious fragility of the impermanent.
By blending textiles and textures with the transformational, I arrive at a visually layered destination of color, line and space.