In 2007, I began Were I So Besotted, an embroidered blog about love in the digital age. Think The New York Times Modern Love stories, but more raw, juxtaposing embroidered images and text. An accompanying blog shared backstories of my own and others’ blunders using apps and web sites to find romance. Small grants propelled the work into interviews with Brooklynites, including video and embroidered stop motion animation.
Since 2012, I’ve mostly shifted away from love to the history of textile labor and production as linked to colonialism, enslavement, racial and economic hierarchies. As part of this work, I partner with NYC farms and gardens to grow textile crops from seed to dye, and lead free, public dye and fiber workshops. Recent work also considers textiles as cultural traditions, and speaks to the complex feedback loop between “American culture” and immigrants’ traditions, including tensions between cultural preservation, assimilation and appropriation.
Most recently, like all of us, my frame of mind, habits and thoughts have radically shifted in response to quarantine orders and anxieties surrounding COVID-19. Shortly after shelter-in-place began, I noticed a high proportion of Instagram Zoom wedding stories, renewing my interest in embroidering love stories from a sociological perspective. As we rely even more heavily on digital media to connect during social distancing, I wonder how the innate drive for human love and physical contact will adapt. How will new love blossom? #quarantinelovestories distills observations from online interactions and my own mental wanderings into embroidered snapshots of this unique time while serving as an antidote to commonly felt anxieties during separation and isolation.
Iviva Olenick is a Brooklyn-born and based artist working with textiles as text and performance. Her work has been commissioned by Old Stone House and Wyckoff House Museum, Brooklyn; Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Pereleman gift shop, and Brooklyn Academy of Music. She has exhibited at the Museum of Design Atlanta; Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, NYC; Salisbury University, Maryland; and has taught and exhibited at the Center for Book Arts, NYC; Hunterdon Museum, Clinton, NJ; Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA; among other venues.
Iviva’s poem-flag, Incantation, made during the 2016 Presidential election calling for peace during turbulent political times, was published in The Nation, October 2017, and is available as a woven throw through The Nation. Iviva performed this poem in Readings on Peace at the Queens Museum in 2018. Iviva’s work has also been published in several anthologies of contemporary craft, and reviewed in Hyperallergic and The New York Times.
Iviva has a BA in French Language and Literature/Psychology from Binghamton University and an AAS in Textile/Surface Design from FIT. She is a faculty member of SVA’s MFA Art Practice program, and a museum educator.