Work of multimedia artist one of a kind
Art: Ann Haessel displaying impressionist pieces at the Okotoks Art Gallery
Wednesday, Sep 06, 2017 06:00 am
Spools of thread aren’t tangling up a Calgary artist in her newest exhibit Threads that Bind.
Ann Haessel’s unique mixed media impressionist pieces feature multiple layers of fabric, intricate stitching and embellishments. They will be on display at the Okotoks Art Gallery from Sept. 9 to Nov. 11 in the small gallery. An opening reception will take place Sept. 9 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
“I don’t think anybody normal would do this,” Haessel said last week. “There is some being up there that’s making me do what I do because anybody in their right mind would not do this. It’s extremely time consuming.”
Haessel’s imagination has been soaring since taking her first creative art class in 1981 while living in Montreal and her fibre creations are filling galleries around the world. Haessel’s work has been exhibited at the Biennale Internazionale Dell’Arte Contemporanea in Italy, Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in New York City and numerous galleries across North America.
Threads that Bind contains Haessel’s most recent work where she places several layers of fabric on top of each other and uses her sewing machine to create lines and patterns on top of the fabric.
“Occasionally, when I’m embroidering at my machine I write love,” she said.
“You won’t see it from a distance or you may never see it. You may see it upside down or sideways or if I’m feeling sentimental a heart goes into it or if I get bored I do leaves or if I see an animal popping into it I add an eye.”
When she’s finished with the embroidery work, Haessel steps outside of her home studio with her hot air paint stripper and begins burning holes into her creation.
“I go out in the wintertime with my toque, ski jacket and gloves on,” she said. “I have the piece pinned to a board and I turn it around and keep burning it. Then I take a break and mark pins where I want to burn it more and I go out and I reburn it.”
This process causes the foreground layers to reveal background layers, which are often partially masked by transparent fabric.
“How I melt it, how I burn it, where I melt it, where I burn it and where I sew it all affects what I’m going to get in the end and I don’t know what that will be,” she said. “When I burn it the knitting shows through so it adds a different texture.”
What Haessel ends up with after completing the process is often a surprise.
“There’s an unknown factor,” she said. “When I’m ready to burn I do not know what will come out of this. Sometimes they don’t look very good and look a lot better when I burn them. Sometimes the reverse is true.”
If Haessel isn’t satisfied, she gets back to work until she’s happy with the final product.
“My goal is I have to be happy with it,” she said. “I never throw it out. Sometimes I turn it over and work from the back and can’t see what’s happening on the front.”
Haessel sometimes adds embellishments like fabric, paint, melted insulated fabric, wire, yard and even plastic rings.
When Haessel thinks she’s finished, she will hang it in her front room.
“If I don’t like looking at it, it comes down and I add something else to it,” she said. “I pretty well know immediately.”
Unlike most artists, Haessel doesn’t start out with a plan and the final product is always unexpected.
“I don’t have a preconceived notion and if it comes out looking different than what I think it’s going to look like that’s what I work with,” she said. “If you’re an artist you have to make it work.”
Haessel began making doll clothes as a child. It progressed over the years to wall art using embroidery, needlepoint and cross-stitching.
She took various art classes at the Alberta College of Arts and Design to expand her creative sense.
“I’ve taken over 100 courses so I’m not short of ideas,” she said. “I used to do small and everything was intricate. Now I like to have it so you stand back and see a wonderful picture.”
Haessel’s work has been exhibited at the Biennale Internazionale Dell’Arte Contemporanea in Italy, Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in New York City and numerous galleries across North America.
For more information about Haessel’s art go to haessel.net
The Okotoks Art Gallery is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.