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Nike Schroeder's Embroidered Snapshots

Textile artist crafts her own memories

Sourcing personal memories for fine art always carries its own danger. How might the artist transform instances from her individual narrative into something that transcends timelines, that resonates with people who don't share those memories? There's a reason we don't consider snapshots themselves to be art. They mean little to those who don't recognize the people and the moments captured within. But translate those snapshots to a vastly different medium from film or digital images and suddenly they're curiosities worthy of a more general attention.

Nike Schroeder works with thread. She painstakingly embroiders images onto different colored canvases, recreating the impromptu photos she takes of her friends at parties. In one sense, they're portraits of the people whose likenesses she captures with her needle. In another, they have very little to do with the individuals whose presence originally inspired the photographs. They're a copy of a copy of a person, with most of the detail left behind in favor of textured shapes.

One could read Schroeder's work as a commentary on the endless process of self-replication our culture has now become. We don't just experience events anymore. We document them as they occur, making sure never to witness anything important without also recording it through the lens we carry constantly in our cell phone. Every single major occurrence inspires a hundred, a thousand different accounts, all published in real time as events unfold. We live now through instantaneous duplication, through copies of copies of copies.

But Schroeder's canvases aren't instant copies. They're lovingly, painstakingly replicated with real craft and effort. They trace the edges of a moment without giving away the whole thing, allowing the bulk of the original image to remain implied. In a way, they're immensely private works, hinting at the memories of parties we'll never get to attend, giving us glimpses at friendships with people we'll never know.

Maybe they're not for us. Maybe that's the point; we all can glance at the edges of each other's lives through our incessant self-publication, but the core experience remains hidden deep within personal memory as something that can't be broadcasted. The tangibility of the medium--the ragged threads wafting down the canvas, loose, exposed, unfinished--hints at the intangibility of the moments contained within. We can see and touch the needlework, but the image it silhouettes eludes us. 

Despite the frustration inherent with trying to get at a moment that's sealed off to us, there's a warmth inherent in Schroeder's work. Maybe it's the echo of needlepoint kitsch, or maybe the artist's fondness for these reconstructed memories really does seep through. Either way, it makes her pieces lovely just to look at.