Abstract Narrative Art? What is that?

Basically, it’s something I’ve been trying to connect in my textile work. I want to find a way to tell a story (narrative) using the abstract techniques I enjoy most: resist dyeing, stitching, beading, and printing/painting.


Doe, 2009

This is one of my early examples. The narrative refers to an accident involving a deer and my car. The techniques I used are resist-dye on merino wool and hand stitching & beading.

Some of the questions I have to answer for myself: Does the viewer need to understand the narrative when they look at the piece? Should I suggest the narrative through the title or an written explanation?

Maybe the story that motivated the piece doesn’t matter, since the work is basically abstract. Does it have to ‘look like’ anything? Maybe it could just be interesting and engaging for other visual reasons, like technique, color, or form.

And, if the viewer doesn’t follow the narrative directly but still enjoys the abstract nature of the work, why do I bother connecting it to a story at all?

Black Poppy.jpeg

Black Poppy

ca. 1960, Judith Godwin (American, b. 1930), oil on canvas. Gift of Mrs. M.S. Chevalier

Here is an excellent example. If you hadn’t seen the title, would you have thought of a black poppy? Or a windmill? Or maybe you didn’t see a ‘thing’ at all, but just form, color and paint.

Sticky as it is, I’m still drawn to the idea of expressing narratives through abstraction.