‘A Language of Faith: from Paper to Glass’ TEXERE Conference Lisbon 2002

Speaker: Pamela Hardesty

In 1986 I moved from the U.S. to Ireland in the hope of finding a simpler way of life, hopefully in a society more attuned to spiritual exploration, more appreciative of the poetic and the immaterial. I have settled in Ireland to teach and work, developing my artistic vocabulary through a wide range of materials and processes, all united by a textiles sensibility and an effort to articulate through form my evolving Christian faith.

My first work in Ireland was realised through the medium of paper. In my fine arts training in California I learned papermaking. I learned to appreciate the versatility of paper, its neutral character lending itself to endless transformation. I developed methods to apply pigments and various abrasive and heat treatments to commercial papers to imitate organic surfaces. These papers I then divided into various units by tearing. I then reassembled these small units into relief surfaces, mimicking natural rhythms from the landscape. I liked the way that these broken surfaces manipulated light and shadow, creating a shifting and living surface. I spent a lot of time in the wildness of the west of Ireland, observing the processes of nature. I felt that these natural rhythms offered some clue to the nature of God and the universal reality. Through this language of organic, flowing, and faceted surfaces I worked to convey my spiritual yearning and questioning. The forms of my paper work often evoked vessels of movement such as boats or birds, or of sources of knowledge such as books.

In 1991 my work changed direction. I felt a need to move away from the vagueness and darkness of much of my paper work, and its dependence on the beauty of nature. I explored simpler, pure geometric forms in an effort to release my work from nature references. I explored new materials, which worked very directly with light through transparency and reflection. Glass became my main focus. In 1993 I exhibited a large body of work on the Paradiso of Dante, using mainly glass, but also plaster and metal to convey the highly structured but lyrical, affirmative language of the poem. I cut the glass into small squares or triangles and mounted these on patterns of nails to make relief mosaics, which could float over painted images underneath. I felt that glass was more appropriate now to my clearer realisation of faith.

Since the mid-90’s I have continued to explore glass in cut units in a great variety of structures. I developed ways to use wire to wrap and link glass units into fabric-like and flexible structures and three-dimensional vessels. I also incorporate stone units and text to enrich this language. I continue to create metaphors for my faith journey. I see the grid structures of my glass fabric as analogous to the method of reason. The flexibility of these grids means that I can manipulate them to evoke flow and motion. The actual process of constructing these complex works is meditative and prayerful, and seems to me appropriate in translating my inner insights into form. I have explored themes of baptism and salvation, and at present I am working on a series based on the wounds of Christ’s Passion, presenting them as agents of transformation.

In the year 2000 I became a Catholic, and my work has increasingly sought to serve my faith as a contemporary response. It is beginning to find a role in places of worship.

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