Textiles enjoy a close kinship with storytelling and narrative. As an artist interested in religious traditions and expressions of sacred form, fiber arts and labor-intensive needlework are primary mediums by which I examine the nature of transformation in ritual practice. Several years ago, I was invited by Rabbi Liza Stern of Congregation Eitz Chayim (Cambridge, MA) to create a new Torah mantle. The task of fabricating a ceremonial garment - that by virtue of its beauty would signal the central presence of Judaism’s core sacred texts - was daunting. Over several years’ time the project inspired my in-depth encounters with the ancient narrative that I experienced in conjunction with rabbinic traditions of ‘midrash’ – the interpretation and re-interpretation of the biblical text as a guide for living and foundation for understanding – in close relationship with the vibrant life of the congregation. The investigation guiding my design of the Torah mantle generated a second project for the collective spinning and weaving of a ritual textile used to bind the Torah scrolls together. In the end, both projects proved to be seminal platforms for my vision of a socially-engaged art practice.
- Catherine Tutter, December 2011