Artists need motivation, and Linda Silk was no different. “It’s very hard for you to find time to pursue your art when you’re working all the time," said Silk, a graphic designer.
When the idea was floated that Silk and Thesesa Kulstad, members of the Del Ray Artisans, have a combined show at the group's gallery, Silk thought it was an ideal way to ensure she dedicated time to her art.
“We put this out in front of us and said that we needed some sort of external pressure to keep us going," she said. "In both of our cases, we have to come home every single day and dedicate time.”
Kulstad faced a different kind of obstacle: the hesitation to showcase her at times very personal works at the gallery. “There’s a certain vulnerability," she said. "You have to be ready for rejection and feedback.”
Kulstad wavered on whether to join the show, ultimately deciding to take a chance. The duo's show "Kimonos, Canvas and Collage" — featuring Silk's wearable art and Kulstad's paintings and collages — debuted on Aug. 4 and runs through Aug. 27 at the Del Ray Artisans gallery at 2704 Mount Vernon Ave. Visit www.TheDelRayArtisans.org for more information.
KULSTAD DECIDED 12 years ago that she needed a form of artistic expression. “I get real frustrated if I’m not doing something with my hands; I’m a hairdresser by trade," said Kulstad, who specializes in hair coloring in a Georgetown salon.
She began painting, using a deep and lush color palette in depicting still-life scenes and outdoor vistas. “I’m not a subtle person," she said.
Later in her artistic life, "the collage thing happened," she said. Kulstad, a native Alexandrian, began working in this media and found herself with a much more emotional and revealing outlet for her art. “I always wanted to keep a journal and never did. I had all these little windows of time," she said.
One of them was two and a half years ago when Kulstad experienced breast cancer. The result was "Reconstructive," a powerful collage that covers several painful aspects of her experience. Cellular rice paper reminds her of a cancerous mammogram. A photo of a child is "the only time I remember not having a negative body image," she said.
Collages that followed continued this emotional journey. "Secrets" delves into sensitive deceptions within her own family, for example. “The emotions in my work before where expressed through color and not by subject matter. I always felt I had too traditional a subject matter," Kulstad said of her previous paintings. “This speaks more to me, but you know what? I just can’t stop painting.”
SILK LIKES A CHALLENGE. Not only does she work with wood carving, but with the delicate process of creating silk kimonos and other wearable art.
“You have to know where you’re going before you go there. But somewhere along the line, it’s going to take you somewhere you weren’t planning on going, so be prepared," she said.
“My work is unforgiving. You don’t get a chance to amend a mistake. Initially you think you’re going to rip up that silk and start all over again, but it can be demoralizing. Eventually you get to a point where [you ask yourself] how I’m going to work around it, where is it going to take me?”
There are typically six panels in each kimono, with each panel the size of a door. The panels of stretched silk, colored with dye, can take nearly a month — hand washed, steamed, dry-cleaned, "put through the wringer," Silk said.
When it works, Silk's thrilled with the results, like the stunning waves of color in "Flight over Misty Mountain" and the intricate detail in a large silk blouse that hung in the gallery.
And when it doesn't work? “It’s extraordinarily frustrating.”
Silk doesn't seek perfection, however. She said the Japanese have a theory that one never achieves it. "And if you do achieve perfection, you have to put a thumbprint in it and flaw it."