Binary Traces: Kay, 2005

Lia Cook

Location: Berkeley, California
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Lia Cook uses the structural language of weaving to make her images not merely physical, but also visceral. Enigmatic portraits and fragmentary details of hands and faces are woven in large scale to intensify the intimacy of a fleeting moment or expression. Examined closely, the evocative images dissolve into abstraction, revealing their complex structure and surface texture.

Cook’s creative process combines photographic media and computeraided technologies with her mastery of hand- and machine-powered Jacquard looms. Her recent black-and-white work is based on scanned photographs. These images themselves are manipulated on the computer; digital technology enables her to play with scale, detail, and focus. The visual information is translated through a CAD (computeraided design) program into weaving instructions for a digital Jacquard head on a hand loom in her studio. Face Maps: Halfseen could be considered a sketch for the larger work; a black warp and white weft interact to create a loosely woven interpretation of the photograph. Binary Traces: Kay is woven in double-cloth, each pixel expressing the interlacing of either a black warp and weft or a white warp and weft. Computer- coded and hand-woven, the images are constructed rather than applied: the points of color that form the images and the crossing of threads that create the textiles are the same. Surface, structure, and imagery merge. Furthermore, the interaction between the binary coding and the physicality of the weaving leaves a distinctive surface pattern or trace, which Cook examines by zooming in on four square centimeters of the portrait, enlarging and re-weaving that detail, which in turn expresses the same labyrinthine surface pattern.

Cook’s work stimulates conscious and unconscious pleasures by expressing advanced digital concepts in the sensual medium of cloth. In addition to the emotional freight of the image, the cloth itself is imbued with notions of comfort and kinetic memories of tactile experiences. Combining technical rigor and skilled handcraft, Cook brings an unusual richness to both textiles and images.