Knoxville, TN | Mixed Media, Drawing
Nick DeFord is an artist, educator, and arts administrator who resides in Knoxville, TN. His embroidery and mixed media work explores the visual culture of cartography, occult imagery, game boards, geographical souvenirs, and other structures of information that is altered to examine the relationship of identity, space, and place. He received his MFA from Arizona State University, and a MS and BFA from the University of Tennessee. He exhibits nationally, with exhibitions at Coastal Carolina University, The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, University of Mississippi, Lindenwood University, and the William King Museum. He has had artwork or writing published in Surface Design Journal, Elephant Magazine, Hayden Ferry Review, and Willow Springs. Currently, Nick is the Program Director at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee, and works on his fiber art practice from his home studio.
My work explores the visual culture of cartography, occult imagery, game boards, geographical souvenirs, and other structures of information that is altered to examine the relationship of identity, space, and place. The disruption of these visual systems reveals a thin boundary between the known and unknown, between knowledge and superstition. The repetitive hand-mechanical process used in stitching, layering, piercing or accumulation gives the work an added inference of compulsivity, craft, and concern. The additive processes and materials tie the work to familiar classrooms and homes where information is routinely organized and understood. The embroidery needle or awl cuts through the surfaces of ephemeral objects and alters the original structure of information in a physical and hybrid transformation. In order to examine that sutured boundary between the known and unknown, I select for subject matter places and themes that are infamous for their mystery. These mysterious themes may be the habitation of monsters, centers of conspiracy, occult devices, or vortices of mysticism. Strange locales, threatening in their otherness, provide stark contrast to the comfort and security of living room or dining room table. Anxiety increases when we realize that the physical world, in its infiniteness of space and time, borders the unexplored and unexplainable. We understand ourselves by naming and categorizing, and mapping – including gaming and play – is a common method of understanding not only personal location but also personal identity. My work questions the efficacy of that process, the delicacy of the known world, and a re-identification within viewers of a sense of place and the unknown.