The slow pace of hand embroidery makes it a perfect activity to let your mind wander and begin spinning tales, which is exactly what one Los Angeles artist does. Michelle Kingdom uses traditional needlework techniques to create enigmatic scenes with distinctly narrative qualities. Her compositions often feature groups of people in ambiguous situations, which might be completely innocent or more sinister.
Kingdom writes on her website, “I create tiny worlds in thread to capture elusive yet persistent inner voices. Literary snippets, memories, personal mythologies, and art historical references inform the imagery; fused together, these influences explore relationships, domesticity and self-perception. Symbolism and allegory lay bare dynamics of aspiration and limitation, expectation and loss, belonging and alienation, truth, and illusion.”
The artist tells The Creators Project that even though she started experimenting with embroidery back in the 90s, she didn’t start showing her embroidered works until just a few years ago. “Back then the art world was dominated by highly conceptual, ironic, oversized work that mostly left me cold. I never thought art could be a viable career option so I decided to start drawing with a needle and thread as a way to explore and create my own private narratives.” Kingdom chooses to let her work develop gradually, “I prefer for each piece to unfold in its own way and am not interested in merely executing a fixed idea.”
A preschool teacher by day, Kingdom embroiders in her spare time and says she’s painfully aware of the role time plays in her art practice. “The time it takes to stitch a simple line is like drawing in slow motion—extremely slow motion—not to mention the time involved in rendering shape and tone. The process is both frustrating and magical, and always a bit surprising. It requires a specific frame of mind to fully engage with this kind of work.” The time that Kingdom spends engrossed in her work allows her to develop such fascinating and nuanced narratives. “The result echoes my vision of capturing a nebulous inner dialogue we all have,” she says.
Despite only having shown her embroidered work for the past few years, Kingdom has an impressive exhibition record. In addition to taking part in exhibitions throughout the country, Kingdom was represented by bG Gallery at last year’s Scope Art Show in Miami.
She says, “Because I stitched in private for so many years and as a fairly obsessive outlet, my embroideries were able to mature with a focused vision. Some outward changes are apparent: the scale has enlarged, the images are more refined, the stitches more delicate yet assured, the palette both subdued and more complex. But in my mind they are all pieces of a larger story.”
What is done cannot be undone, 2015