Holding Patterns: Fafnir Adamites

July 20, 2018 by

Growing up in Western Massachusetts, Fafnir Adamites would never have thought to call herself an artist. “I didn’t grow up in a place where being an artist was really valued or realistic, so it took me a long time to claim that term.”

A wayfinder by nature, she followed a non-traditional educational path into the role, but has ultimately claimed the term, recognizing it now as connected with a deep childhood interest in materials and making.

“I was always wanting to be working with my hands from a really early age. My dad was a tinkerer. He had a workshop…and I was often kind of shadowing him, starting to tinker with my own little things. I didn’t think of myself as an artist, it was just what I was drawn to do—I was also always collecting things, being very aware of objects and their resonance in my life.“

Adamites has also been long fascinated with time.

At a 2-person show in Boston’s Fountain Street Gallery, UNTURNED, featuring works that she produced at Women’s Studio Workshop, Adamites identifies two of three pieces in the exhibit as explicitly focused on time.

In Forty Imperfect Gestures (plaster, wire, abaca paper pulp), each “imperfect gesture” represents an imperfect year. Insight that Accrues (cotton string, abaca paper pulp), addresses time more obliquely, using rich, black matte textures to suck viewers into in a complex inquiry about time as an encoder of memory and history in matter.

“I started thinking about time in my work and about the passage of time because I was doing these daily projects whenever I went to an artist residency. It was a way for me to eliminate artists block, but also to try to keep myself very present while I was in these really unique and wonderful moments in my life, to be able to be at these residencies…At Women’s Studio Workshop, I was doing this again, but I chose to use the same object, made every day that I was there.”

This is the genesis of the forms in Insight that Accrues. Adamites created weavings on a frame, then dipped them repeatedly into a vat of paper pulp, and then removed them from their wooden frames, allowing them to dry over strainers in a cone shape. The end result looks far more organic and than gridlike, despite having begun on a square loom.

“It’s not just about building up the surface of an armature by dipping it again and again. It’s not just about weaving and building up those lines. It’s like each dip, or each line of a weaving, or each roll when I’m felting, is recording my physical presence.”

She is extremely intentional in the choice of materials, colors, form and process, so the “organic” feeling in her final work comes from the piece of things that Adamites has made a deliberate choice not to try to control. She thinks of this part of the picture as “a collaboration with the medium”—after all of the parameters she wants to control completely are put in place.

“The way that paper pulp decides to stick and form around an armature—I could be extremely precise with that, but for the most part I’m letting the paper do its own process, and am not trying to control it to the extent that I’m in there with little tweezers trying to get an exact shape.”

When Adamites describes this process of collaboration, it sounds as if the media themselves have a certain amount of agency in the art making process—but it’s not so much that they have intention, as that they have tendencies to act in particular ways based on how they are composed.

Not unlike people.

One of the main themes that Adamites has been exploring with her work for some time now is the idea that trauma might be transmissible genetically from one generation of organisms (or people) to another. And that the expression of genetically encoded trauma might bias an organism (or person) towards particular tendencies or behavior patterns. So Adamites’ experiments with the range of ways that paper pulp might take shape, day after day, on a similar armature, could also be seen as a hopeful investigation of how much range can be found—how far from the patterns predicted by past experience—any medium (or person) might be able to go.

These same interests play out in her work’s final shapes. Adamites has done in-depth research on the notion of “counter-monuments”, a German movement towards memorialization that is non-monumental—that works to hold space open for the recognition of trauma’s ongoing impact rather than to build some kind of symbol to stand in place of a loss. Negative spaces, cast in the impermanent medium of paper, are left empty in most of Adamites’ large pieces in recognition of traumatic rift.

In these new, smaller works Adamites tinkered with at Women’s Studio Workshop’s paper studio, even the membranes outlining the forms themselves are riddled with spaces left open. There is a porousness to this new work that talks of trauma in the very grain of reality. And leaves the spaces for it to be there.

See Adamites at work and hear her talk about her time at Women’s Studio workshop here.

Fafnir Adamites holds an MFA degree from the Fiber and Material Studies Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in Photography and Women’s Studies from UMass Amherst. Fafnir was a recent Studio Residency Grant recipient at Women’s Studio Workshops and is a member of Boston Sculptors Gallery. She teaches at Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and at The Academy at Charlemont. She lives in Turners Falls, MA.