The Fabric of Life
Textile Artist Maggy Rozycki Hiltner uses materials with a past to weave new stories
“Pink Cloud,” detail
Delicate hand-stitched tea towels, handkerchiefs and table scarves that were passed down from earlier generations have, for the most part, been discarded, donated to thrift stores or consigned to vintage shops. But to artist Maggy Rozycki Hiltner, these outdated pieces are gems waiting to be discovered. She cuts away the embroidered flowers, foliage and animals and adds them to her own hand stitching to create embroidery collages that are as much stories as they are works of textile art.
The Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne recently staged a 17-piece exhibition of Hiltner’s embroidery collages, entitled “Not Quite Sew.” Her work invokes themes of nostalgia and whimsy; yet on closer inspection the art reveals more subversive connotations and double meanings.
“I love narrative illustrative art,” Hiltner says. “I love storytelling. Even if the piece has only one figure, it is hinting at a story. I am setting a little stage.” From there the viewer can take the story wherever it may lead. “Art is like a mirror. What you are seeing in it is just as valid as what I am making of it.”
Her collages are populated with characters, usually children, that she describes as “Dick and Jane style, an American archetype of an idealized person.” Hiltner draws each figure first and then sews it with a single thread or a single strand of embroidery floss onto the fabric that serves as the “canvas” for her collaged artwork.