Karen Reimer works to establish something more complex, more ambiguous, more symbiotic than the traditional oppositional binary relationships that ground so much of our culture. By combining the tactics and aesthetics of conceptual art with the tropes of domestic decoration, Reimer pushes concept and material, art and labor, language and linens, utopia and realism, heaven and hell into the same space.
In this body of work, Reimer exchanges language for the imagery of stylized nature so typical of domestic decoration. Starting with the literalism of replacing an image of flowers with the word “flowers”, Reimer embroiders quotations in which that word appears on pillowcases. Ranging from the poetic to the pedagogical, these quotations address the practices of craft and decoration and the assumptions and debates surrounding those practices, with several quotes taken from scholars and philosophers of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Reimer is interested in revisiting that movement’s ideas about craft, manual labor, learning, domesticity, etc., as they translate into the contemporary digital age. The arrangement of the text on the pillowcases borrows equally from the traditions of embroidered pillowcase decoration and the formatting of language on computer screens, for example the blue boxing of selected words or the red strike-through of deletions when tracking changes.
Embroidering the quotations onto pillowcases is both an examination via embodiment or acting out of the ideas, and also an attempt to put art into the realm of private domestic experience. What Reimer produces are potentially useful objects that could easily be slipped onto your pillows…
Karen Reimer (American, b. 1958, lives Chicago) is a recipient of both the Artadia Individual Artist Grant and the Richard A. Driehaus Individual Artist Award. She has had solo exhibitions at Goshen College Art Gallery, Indiana; moniquemeloche gallery, Chicago; and Rochester Art Center, Minnesota. Her work has been included in group shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Contemporary Craft Museum, Portland, Oregon; and Wallspace Gallery, New York, among others. Reimer’s works have been featured in the edited volumes Contemporary Textiles: The Fabric of Fine Art (Black Dog Publishing, 2008); The Object of Labor: Art, Cloth, and Cultural Production (MIT Press, 2007); By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010); and Limited Language—Rewriting Design: Responding to a Feedback Culture (Birkhauser Architecture, 2009). She won the Women’s Caucus for the Arts President’s Award in 2010, and is an adjunct instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.