In his book, Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes writes: “the photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who I am here; the duration of the transmission is insignificant; the photograph of the missing person being, as Sontag (On Photography) says, the delayed rays of a star.”
This is a sentiment that resonates with Stewart who has been fascinated by her family’s photographic archive since her childhood in Ohio, sparking in her young mind not only questions about the family narrative but of the basic ingredients of life including the fleeting nature of time and our impermanence.
With old family photographs as a starting point, Elizabeth Stewart removes her subjects from their original printed or negative source. By reimagining and reprocessing the images using textiles and other media, she creates a new dreamlike setting for her subjects. Stewart explains that setting them free from the time and space in which they were originally captured feels liberating and celebratory. Creating work that transcends the personal and sidesteps nostalgia is essential in her practice.
Stewart likes to work on a large scale using woven material made with a computer controlled jacquard loom. The warmth and domesticity of this woven fabric feels apt with the collaged, hand stitched appliqué elements a particularly satisfying part of the process. She draws inspiration from the textile work of Louise Bourgeois, and relates especially to her ideas about stitching when she said, “The act of sewing is a process of emotional repair.”