Brittni Ann Harvey works in a variety of media to explore global shifts in manufacturing, technology, religion, and class hierarchy. Her fuse historic and contemporary reference imagery, as well as analogue and digital processes such as: drawing, Jaquard-weaving, bronze casting, painting and digital embroidery. The histories embedded within these materials and methodologies are of particular import to the artist, from the archiving of events in Medieval tapestry and the use of textiles in traditional religious regalia, to the often gender associations of loom-weaving and other “craft” like processes throughout art history, to the role of textile manufacturing in sparking the US Industrial Revolution (and the economic repercussions of its subsequent decline). To produce her works, Harvey first sketches by hand and then scans her drawings and manipulates them within a computer program to produce digital embroideries on wool, velvet, polyester and Jacquard-woven fabrics. Through these layers of mediation, the work speaks to the ways in which historic artifacts and cultural knowledge evolve and morph over millennia - sometimes disappearing altogether.
In all of her work, Harvey cites the complex rise and fall of US textile manufacturing as a primary point of inspiration - specifically within New England, where the artist is from. Once a thriving industry, Harvey and her family bore witness to the abrupt decline of textile and other industrial sectors that had defined the region. This swift and devastating economic shift from the production of goods to the provision of services was bellied by an influx of medical, technological and data-mining companies that took over - often working closely with the Department of Defense and local Maritime bases to develop new weapons and surveillance software. Harvey expands upon these themes in her most recent series of “Robot Dogs” - bronze and fiber sculptures that reference the eerie cyborg canines produced by government-funded technological companies such as Boston Dynamics. The dog-like forms are molded from strips of wax that the artist braids by hand and then casts in bronze, and adorns with plush, digitally-embroidered fabric, stuffed with Polyfil. The sculptures often contrast the drone-like automata with Gothic, Pre-Renaissance and religious iconography. The rough, handmade detailing of the sculptures defies the slick, industrial qualities of the original robotics that serve as referent, while the textile adornments transform the creatures into pseudo-alters. Through this contrast, the works speak to our collective obsession with - and fear of - technological advancement.
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