Resident art professors unravel meaning, method behind collaborative works

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Two resident art professors who break down gender binaries and what it means to hunt and be hunted described their collaborative processes on Nov. 16 at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Thirty seats were taken up in the Business Lecture Hall as Brittany Ham, lecturer of art, and Justin Korver, senior […]

Two resident art professors who break down gender binaries and what it means to hunt and be hunted described their collaborative processes on Nov. 16 at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

Thirty seats were taken up in the Business Lecture Hall as Brittany Ham, lecturer of art, and Justin Korver, senior lecturer of art, discussed creating “The Chase” a collection of 11 tapestries and one sculpture.

Ham’s preferred medium is painting, while Korver’s is sculpture. The two said they felt their first two installations: “Boys With Feelings, and Girls Without Them” at Clamp Light Artist Studios and Gallery in San Antonio in 2018, and “The Hunt” at Charles Adam Studio Project in Lubbock in 2021 lacked the equal collaborative element they sought.

“The Chase,” which was exhibited at GrayDUCK Gallery in Austin from April 29 to May 28, focused on how they could both showcase their talents and feel they were on an even playing field. They took to a medium in which neither were masters, nor amateurs: digital creation.

“We both felt like we could both very clearly express ourselves in this space,” Korver said.

The artists co-produced 11 square tapestries, all 20 by 20 inches out of woven cotton, and one final piece of sculpture. The tapestries were created digitally and then woven on a jacquard loom, a technique that has been around since the 1800s that takes multiple dyed threads and looms them together to create complex textiles instead of simply dying or printing them on top of an already existing piece.

Brittany Ham, lecturer of art. Photo retrieved from Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s website.

While both creators were out of their comfort zones, Ham said, “The nervousness we both felt towards the medium actually made the work a little bit better, collaboratively.”

“The Chase” was the third phase of their project together, and the sharing of ideas became all the more easy for the two.

Korver joked that while they had received a grant from A&M-San Antonio, they might as well go all out.

The outcome of this process is tapestries of landscapes from around the world. Korver features the Texas hill country, and Ham shows the English countryside she visited over the summer.

Embroidered over the complete surface of green and blue tapestries are bright, punchy silhouettes.

“While this is all done digitally, the hand is never far away,” Korver said of the embroidery process. The finished textile must be fitted into an embroidery hoop precisely enough to have the figure naturally fit into the landscape.

If the silhouettes are embroidered incorrectly, then the artist would have to go back in and unstitch thousands of machine-made stitches by hand and hope the underlying work isn’t undone too badly in the process.

Ham and Korver take these figures that are punching out on top of the landscape and carve them out into sculpture in A Settle.

The only sculpted piece of this body of work is four silhouetted figures sitting on a log together. Korver describes this as a direct inversion of their landscape pieces; whereas in the tapestries the figures were sitting in the forest, now they are presented outside of it.

Justin Korver, senior lecturer of art. Photo retrieved from Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s website.

“That’s a game that Brittany and I will play until both of us are dead, and it’s like that back and forth forever–now you, now you, now you,” Korver said of their exchanging of ideas. “That kind of process is like, the joy, the pleasure, the gain of this work.”

During the presentation, Korver and Ham both hint at the ideas and thoughts behind their work: a binary of male and female, the complex ritual of hunting and where it exists in our world, and for whom.

Their final work with the most figures comes out twice the size of any of the other tapestries, which collages all the other landscapes into one “fantasy world” for their many figures to roam in.

Ham and Korver talk about their most beloved tapestry from the show, “A Clear Cut.”

‘We wanted to co-op that kind of very oppressive tool of these kinds of fantasy landscapes and use it instead into this speculative fiction. If one could make a new landscape, if one could make a new world, what kind of world would one want to participate in?” Korver said. “What kind of world would one want to live in?”

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