Akron Soul Train:
I Speak in Idioms
November Artist in Residence at Akron Soul Train
Christi Birchfield was born in 1983 in Cleveland, Ohio, where she currently lives and works. She received her BFA in printmaking from The Cleveland Institute of Art and her MFA in visual art from Columbia University. Christi has participated in residencies at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture , the Ohio/Dresden Exchange at the Grafikwerkstatt in Dresden, Germany and SPACES World Artist Program (SWAP) residency at SPACES Gallery. Christi is the recipient of a 2016 Creative Workforce Fellowship as well as the 2017 Cleveland Arts Prize in the emerging artist category. Her work is part of the permanent collections at the Cleveland Museum of Art. She has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally in cities such as New York, San Antonio, Dresden, Germany and Qijiang, China. Notable recent exhibitions include Women to Watch Ohio as well as How to Remain Human at MOCA Cleveland.
I have created a series of small sculptures and dyed textiles through the exchange of additive and reductive methods. Carving and bleaching serve as reductive techniques that at times reveal what is hiding beneath and other times fully obliterate the information. Plaster coatings, wrapping, and batik dying act as methods to add color and build form. As I indulgently mix varying hues of fabric dye and stir together water and plaster, I have a laundry list ranging from what to make for dinner to the starving children in Yemen haunting me in my place of privilege as I get to worry about the blue I just mixed not having enough of a green undertone. As podcasts revealing current events backdrop my studio, my mind flickers from shades of blue - to babies at the boarder - to my own babies...and back again. The cycle blurs and various levels of meaning emerge as the blue shifts to teal.
The back and forth method of working calls to mind the use of idioms and how the established meaning of these phrases, when taken literally, shifts to various points of meaning. Idioms serve as a point of entry for the making of this work. I like the notion that a group of words can be established by usage as having a meaning not educible from those of the individual words. Through use and a collective understanding, meaning is attached to an otherwise nonsensical phrase. When taken literally, the phrases serve as a framework for the creation of images and objects. Through the development of this work, the pieces have taken on personal narratives both comical and meaningful. Tip of the Iceberg, one of my favorite works in the show, can be understood as an abstract representation of a floating, icy, blue form and on another level suggests for me something new is starting to take shape within my practice. Similarly, Arm and a Leg describes the literal contents of the piece but also suggests its idiomatic definition-“pricey”. The works creep onto each other through shape and color, sharing similarities like siblings. As I chip away at the layers I've created and then bury them again with a new batch of plaster or a different shade of red-orange, I recognize that these shifting layers have taken pause but only temporarily, as little remains static at our psychotic