alabamathirteen: Warped Threads

alabamathirteen is a largely self-taught, working-class, disabled artist from Leeds. Increasingly her work is focused on her own personal limitations, navigating and negotiating the spaces and places she occupies as a disabled woman.

"Originally trained as a sociologist, my interests have always focused around bodies, spaces and places and how we experience and occupy them as individual and as a society. As my work has developed over the last few years, my life and practice have become increasingly impacted by the realities of being disabled, and there are currently some particularly strong themes around false narratives and distorted memories emerging.

I use a lot of photography in my work. I am particularly interested in how photography itself can be considered a distorted representation of a moment in time. I often use my phone to take photos as it is much more lightweight and accessible for me to work with, especially as I use a walking stick or wheelchair to get around or when my psoriatic arthritis isn't flaring in my hands.

However, I am much more drawn to the haptic and tactile nature of analogue photography so I tend to print my images onto polaroid film, or use them to create negatives to make cyanotype prints, before I work on them further using embroidery. My aim is to start experimenting with even more ephemeral and fragile forms of experimental photography, particularly anthotypes and chlorophyll prints, to really push at the boundaries of the transient nature of experiences and memory.

I use a lot of traditional forms of embroidery in my work, predominantly cross stitch and blackwork embroidery. As well as allowing me to add additional layers of distortion and narrative on top of the photographic images, I really love that embroidery brings with it its very own layer of rich and subversive history as 'women’s work'. I am currently working on an ongoing series of embroidered photos using invisible thread. The next planned piece in this series is a fake panoramic created from photos I took on various school trips in the 1980s. 

I am also working on a series of polaroid images with accompanying stitched soundscapes. Although the majority of these pieces were started well before lockdown, when I could still go out and take photos and make sound recordings, there is one set of images and sound recordings that focus on the frustration, loneliness, mundanity and monotony I have experience over the last few months.

Although I have always had to be very careful about the places and spaces I could spend time in safely, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 I was happily exploring my obsession with recording places and spaces through photography and sound recordings, and was even starting to tentatively experiment with creating visual representations of sound and audio representations of images. Unfortunately as a 'clinically extremely vulnerable person' my world suddenly became even more tiny as I went into shielding. I was unable to leave my bedroom or interact with my family in my own house, never mind going outside of the house to visit other places. 

Initially I felt very lost creatively, and pretty resentful I couldn’t continue the work I had been doing in the same way. There really is a limit on how many photos or sound recordings you can take in a single room over an extended period of time without it becoming monotonous. Or maybe there isn't, or maybe the monotony doesn't even matter, but at that moment in time, it crushed my creative spirit.

But eventually boredom, restless fingers and a box full of old photos provided me with what I needed to start feeling creative again. I'm really excited about the new themes that are emerging in my work and incredibly grateful that I am able to work through the myriad emotions I am experiencing as a disabled person caught up in a pandemic with my art."

You can see more of alabamathirteen's work on her website, or connect with her on Twitter or Instagram

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