Carol Flueckiger

Carol Flueckiger
2009 Last Fellow
Mixed media artist
Lubbock, TX

Research at AAS

"Rags Wanted" (AAS Catalog Record 208294)

I have an affinity toward finding something surprising in the seemingly banal, rags. Something that seems so unimportant was filled with metaphor. I was at AAS looking for something important: fancy paper dolls, handwriting of the important feminist, and I found the biggest surprise in the call for rags at the back of a book or on a broadside. I was struck by the language that commodified by color:

"For Rags of fair quality, delivered in good order at Depot or on the Wharf here, we will give the following prices, when sent in quantities of 1000 pounds and upwards: Mixed, 4 1/4 : Colored, 3 ¼: White, 6 ¼."

I imagined paper dolls and handwritten letters as if they were once rags, once clothing.

It seemed pretty straight forward. Like a quasi-feminist game of paper dolls, figures were wearing history. I was not as interested in the fancy paper dolls as I was in the directions on how to make them. These directions were printed on the envelope. “To Look pretty cut the figure close”. My research and work evolved to printing on actual thrift store shirts that I would wear, actually try on. I wore one of these shirts when I presented my work for the staff and scholars at the AAS. The staff and scholars at AAS then directed me to the broadside and other advertisements at the back of a book about collecting rags. The paper industry would collect rags and recycle them into paper. This was a surprise.

As my work developed, I worked with a cyanotype technique that allowed two things, the use of nature, which was always present in my work, and the ability to imprint text into painted surfaced through coating painted surfaces with the chemical, situating a transparency of my handwriting on top of the surface and exposing to sunlight. It looked like collage but was more sophisticated because it was part of the surface texture. My silhouette looked flat, like a cut out paper doll. It occurred to me that it would be more direct if I was also able to use actual handwriting of early American feminists. In the end, the materials and process connected to all of my themes: nature, transformation, renewal, renewable energy, and recycling.

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