Artist Gina Waldman’s work is layered with both texture and subtext
Looking at the depth of fine artist Gina Waldman’s incredibly laboured-upon art, it isn’t hard to believe that each work takes weeks or even months to complete. Working across many mediums, Gina incorporates everything from found objects such as silverware, furniture and teapots to thread, ribbon, fabric, tapestry, copper leaf, wallpaper, paint, plaster and wire into her quintessentially feminine and often political works. We caught up with the prolific artist, who took time out of her busy schedule to chat to us about her work, life and inspiration.
When did you start making art?
To be honest, I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t making art. I come from a family of three sisters who all studied Fine Arts, and I graduated with a Masters degree in Fine Arts from Wits when I was 22. I have worked on various creative businesses since then, from fashion to styling and art.
What is the main inspiration for your work?
My new body of work focuses on the value placed on women’s work as unwanted items of the past. In the traditional art canon, paintings created by masculine “masters” were esteemed and valuable, while tapestries and embroideries, made by women, were often perceived as domestic items which held little value. For example, in Victorian times, a woman would spend hours embroidering sets of serviettes for her dinner table, only for her guests to wipe their dirt on her work.
Where do you source the items that go into your layered, textured work?
I find most of my materials in junk shops and charity stores. I’m always on the lookout for silverware, tapestries, serviettes, old thread. Every time I travel overseas I come back with the most amazing treasures. I feel that finding the objects in junk shops adds to the notion that women’s work is unvalued and unwanted — seen as kitsch decoration.
What materials and techniques do you like to work with? Which do you think produce the best quality of work?
I think my thread works are the strongest. For example, I might find an autograph book from 1912, photograph it, print it and then embroider into the work. From a glance it looks like a sweet artwork, but if you look closer there are political, social and sexual innuendos present in the images. I love working over old objects.
Describe your work space for us
I have a space that is officially my studio, but it houses tons of finished and unfinished artwork, objects waiting to be displayed and wall-to-wall storage. It’s packed with trinkets, gold threads, vintage fabric piles, old artefacts, reams and reams of pearls, smashed crockery and endless boxes of ribbon. But if I am honest, my work spills out across my home. My dining room table always has some project on it.
You are a wife and mother, as well as an artist. How do you fit it all in?
I have to schedule time and be disciplined and organised. Most people think that an artist’s work is just inspiration, but it is really like running a small business.
The best thing about being an artist?
My work is quite obsessive, so having an outlet where I can think, communicate and make work is great
And the most challenging? The art world politics.
South African artists whose work you’d like to own? I am lusting over Igshaan Adams’s woven work, Pierre Le Riche’s thread work and Lyndi Sales’s murals. They have the same obsessive sensibility that I connect with.