Emily Bihl, a student and emerging writer, was sick and tired of the "throw-away culture" in women's fashion and wanted to shout it off the mountaintops. Luckily, a blog can be a lot like a mountaintop. On Rye & Rivet, the menswear and artisan liquor blog she started in 2011, Emily lets her writing do the shouting for her, on topics such as the heartiest and most stylish fabrics and designs she finds in contemporary menswear, and objects that she sees lasting for a long time as they are passed down between generations. She reacts against buying cheaply made shoes or shirts that rip and are tossed after a solitary night of solid dancing.
As part of our Guest Curators series, in which individuals from all over the map respond to the work available on Artsicle, we asked Emily to curate a selection from our collection. Emily's curation explores nostalgia with evocative pieces like Tim Trompeter's Fieldgrass Split and Alex Nuñez's Untitled red painting - and work that feels handcrafted, like the liquors and linens she loves to share with the world.
*click on any of the works below to view in detail on Artsicle*
My collection started out, really, with two pieces: Curiosities No. 15 by Dana McClure, and Untitled by Alex Nuñez. Right away, I was drawn to the boldness of the colors. On a microcosmic level, these two pieces are pretty good indicators of what draws me into art in general—rich texture, and a discernable process. Working with menswear as much as I do, I see a lot of pattern and texture overlaid and juxtaposed on a daily basis—it’s just the nature of putting a garment or an outfit together. That mixing and matching has always appealed to me (just look at early photographs of toddler-me when I dressed myself).
(Curiosities No. 15, Untitled)
But where my interest in menswear deviates from simply an interest in clothing altogether is in terms of history. Americana (or heritage, or whatever you’d like to call it) unmistakably has its origins in utility. So coming from a utility perspective—visual art being something distinctly anti-utility—the things that resonate with me the most are those that mimic elements of the world I spend my time writing about. Americana is rooted in nubby fabrics, imperfect leathers, and textiles where you can really see the hand of the craftsman in the final product.
It makes sense, then, that what I loved so much about Alex Nuñez’s piece was that same element of hand-crafted-ness: it’s a work that just begs you to imagine the hands, the process, that created it. Some art is just born, given to an artist from an unknown cosmic source—this isn’t that. Nuñez’s work has an unmistakable air of work to it.
And while Dana McClure’s piece is, in a lot of ways, more “refined” in appearance, it’s still a piece with a process behind it. The images were printed on ricepaper, then collaged over a complex scheme of screenprinted inks. As someone who spent a fair amount of her adolescence knee-deep in spray mount and Speedball inks, the collage process that Ms. McClure chose really resounds with me. Of course, the imagery of the chickens also appeals to my weakness for the rustic idea of what American craftsmanship began as, but that’s another story.
(Cityscape in Red, Miami Room 3)
But if Dana’s piece represents pastoral America, then urban America is also well represented in the collection: Jenevieve Reid’s and Sophie Staerk’s pieces are decidedly more metropolitan. But the idea of texture and process is still very much ingrained here—Reid’s Cityscape in Red , in particular, features the kind of richly overlaid patterns that always resonate with me.
The places in this collection where I’ve chosen a much more muted color palette—where grays and whites outnumber the blues and reds—are perhaps where I’m thinking about texture the most. Marcus Romero’s White Abstraction , Tim Trompeter’s Fieldgrass Split , Bradley Butler's In the Earliest of Hours all strike me as very natural, very rural—a blizzard on the plains, rainstorm on the plains, tornado on the plains, respectively. Growing up as I did between cornfields and, well, more these scenes are something I can relate to. Perhaps I’m drawn to these three pieces less because of the aesthetics themselves and more because they call up memories of looking out the basement windows of our house in southern Illinois into storms that threatened to become tornados at a moment’s notice.
As the title “My Hometown” has been passed around to various cities over the years, I find myself imagining the United States as much smaller than it actually is. Dana James’ Coloring Plants reads to me like an abstracted map of the northern U.S., and thus echoes that sense of subjective geography that I know so well. And in that way these pieces really remind me of the places where this passion for craftsmanship began—it’s something that began rurally, out of necessity, and now has become very urban, very aesthetic, and I think that’s reflected in this collection.