Magazine article Artforum International

Colette Whiten

Magazine article Artforum International

Colette Whiten

Article excerpt

SUSAN HOBBS GALLERY

Colette Whiten's needlepoints are based on tiny images taken from newspapers, images that play on the reader's sense of helplessness in the face of distant events. In this show, she exhibited four new images along with the graphs she used to painstakingly transfer the newsprint images to needlepoint. In Mob Attacks Somali Woman, 1993-94, the fear on the woman's face and the ambiguous expressions of the men surrounding her are doubly frozen--in the arbitrary closing of the camera's shutter and in the permanence of Whiten's handiwork. These needleworks, despite their precious size, are striking in their mimetism. It was surprising to be able to recognize the doughy face of serial killer Arthur Shawcross from a cluster of about 20 stitches in varying shades of gray.

The gray matrix of cross-stitches has a digital effect that replicates the newspaper's half-tones as well as a pixelated screen. At the same time, it underscores the difference between Hobbs' painstaking manual labor and the abstracting process of mechanical reproduction. Her meditation upon horrific scenes in the form of repetitive stitching serves, like the act of saying a rosary, as a kind of redemption not only for the people imaged in the scenes but for numbed newspaper readers.

Whiten takes pride in her handiwork, which is evident in the pieces that document her process. These consist of a scroll of graph paper inscribed with marks that represent different shades of gray, suspended in a Plexiglas tube. …

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