Cas Holmes is one of those artists who leaves you with a lot of questions. I was fortunate to spend a few days with her a few years back in several workshops that changed the way I look at textile art. There is no confusion over deciphering if her work is an art quilt. It isn’t. It is textile art, stitched through layers of fabrics or paper, or cast off clothing or the discarded. There is no worrying over the oft regulated “stitched through three layers surrounded by a definitive binding.”
Cas makes art. If it happens to reference the techniques of the quilter, it is coincidence- same brush, different painting. Her work has a primitive quality that wanders the earthly through the ethereal. Transluscent layers of painted fabrics, collaged papers or stitched bits combine and then recombine across different series of her work. Cas sketches regularly. When we went to dinner, she sketched the restraunt interior. During a lunch break, she sketched the classroom venue and then later, on a group walk, she encouraged us all to do the same. She brings this quality to her thread painting- which is more thread sketching with frenetic stitch lines that capture movement and personality. The simplicity of her thread sketching brings a charm to her work and a sense of urgency; as if we need to look now to see a moment or thing before it is gone. This simplicity can also bring reassurance to any of us- to say that we need not worry about the perfection of every line of stitching. In this medium, we can cast off the yoke of perfectly spaced, even stitching and embrace the moment of “doing.”
Cas is a giving teacher who works without pretense. Her materials are sparse and often come from whatever is on hand or can be scrounged from the surrounding environment. I would say that she is a very practical artist with a magical talent to transform. She spends much of her teaching time with children and folks of varying abilities while also creating commission work for galleries around the world.
Cas brings light and life to the invisible; in her work and in her students. I am so glad to have met her and her work. Her new book, The Found Object in Textile Art is due out in September. I know that it will be something special that prompts me to question how I work as a textile artist.
A late addition: a link to my more complete review on Amazon.com: