ALL FINALISTS / SABRINA GSCHWANDTNER

Sabrina Gschwandtner

Sabrina
Gschwa-
ndtner

media
location
is a Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary artist who works with film, video, photography, and textiles. She creates intricate, unconventional “quilts” by stitching together 16-millimeter and 35-millimeter film. Her works highlight forgotten early histories of women in the film industry, and the ways in which women’s work with textiles has traditionally been undervalued.

What drew you to the mediums you work in?

I was originally drawn to film as a mode of what artist Leslie Thornton calls “shared thinking,” in which audiences are not passive consumers of media but are actively engaged. When I studied with Leslie as an undergraduate student, I also really took to knitting. I enjoyed the meditative aspect of the craft and loved choosing yarns of different colors and textures. I started knitting during breaks from editing video and reading dense film theory. After finishing college, I sought ways to closely bring filmmaking and stitching together.

Is there a through line or central message in your work?

I’m working to correct the erasure of women's achievements from the historical record and to connect areas of cultural production, like film and textiles, that have institutionally been kept separated.

What role does tradition play in your work as you create something contemporary?

The quilts I make evoke cinema’s earliest origins in stop motion photography. As digital formats displace film, I draw from the craft of quilting salvaged remnants to create a feminist future for celluloid. In my current work, I’m retrieving films that women made in the late 1800s and early 1900s to use in quilts that I hope will recalibrate and diversify our historical narrative about cinema.

Move Left
Move Right
Courtesy the artist; Photo: Joshua White
Courtesy the artist; Photo: Joshua White
Courtesy the artist; Photo: Joshua White
Courtesy the artist; Photo: Joshua White
Courtesy the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; Photo: Ana Venegas
Courtesy the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. Special thanks to Gregory Yee; Photo: Ana Venegas
Courtesy the artist
Collection RISD Museum, Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund, 2013. 32; Photo: Andy Romer
Hands at Work III
Material: 16 mm film, polyester thread, and LEDS
Dimension: 26 7/8 x 27 x 3 in. (68.2 x 68.5 x 7.6 cm)

Gschwandtner began her first film quilt during her residency at the Museum of Arts and Design in 2009. It is a practice she has continued to develop throughout her career. In many of these works, the artist uses deaccessioned 16mm films from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York on the topic of textiles and crafts. Hands at Work III is created from the 1987 documentary Hearts and Hands directed by Pat Ferrero, which focuses on the history of quilts and their role in the lives of nineteenth-century American women.

Courtesy the artist; Photo: Joshua White
Hands at Work III (detail)
Materials: 16 mm film, polyester thread, and LEDS
Dimension: 26 7/8 x 27 x 3 in. (68.2 x 68.5 x 7.6 cm)

By piecing together her film quilts Gschwandtner also celebrates the underrecognized histories of women’s craft in the film industry. Women prized for their sewing abilities translated their skills to the cutting room, and early film technology relied on the mechanical advancements of the sewing machine. In connecting the histories of quilts and filmmaking, Gschwandtner creates a new narrative that centers these marginalized histories.

Courtesy the artist; Photo: Joshua White
Hands at Work exhibition at Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Courtesy the artist; Photo: Joshua White
Cinema Sanctuary Study 2: Alice Guy-Blache's 1897 Serpentine Dance by Mrs. Bob Walter
Material: 35 mm black and white film, polyester thread, and LEDS
Dimension: 72 x 48 in. (182.88 x 121.9 cm)

The “Cinema Sanctuary” series is a project by Gschwandtner that seeks to highlight the stories and works of pioneering women filmmakers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this work the artist uses footage from an 1897 film by Alice Guy-Blanche (France, 1873-1968) depicting the “Serpentine Dance,” invented by dancer Loie Fuller. Gschwandtner stitches together the film, the edges, sprocket holes, and each individual frame of Guy-Blanche’s work in Cinema Sanctuary Study 2, creating a film quilt that highlights the pioneering dance and theatrical lighting created by Fuller.

Courtesy the artist; Photo: Joshua White
Cinema Sanctuary Study 2: Alice Guy-Blache's 1897 Serpentine Dance by Mrs. Bob Walter (detail)
Material: 35 mm black and white film, polyester thread, and LEDS
Dimension: 26 7/8 x 27 x 3 in. (68.2 x 68.5 x 7.6 cm)
Courtesy the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; Photo: Ana Venegas
Cinema Sanctuary Study 1: Marion E. Wong’s 1917 The Curse of Quon Gwon: When the Far East Mingles With the West
Material: 35 mm black and white film, polyester thread, and LEDS
Dimension: 45 x 67 in. (114.3 x 170.2 cm)

Hand-painted Serpentine Dance Quilt is the corresponding video quilt in the “Cinema Sanctuary” series. In it, Gschwandtner hand-paints the frames of the film, reimagining each within the visual language of a pieced quilt. The video and film quilts offer an alternative to the male-dominated history of film, and a literal mending and repairing of film history.

Courtesy the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. Special thanks to Gregory Yee; Photo: Ana Venegas
Hand-painted Serpentine Dance
Runtime: 01:12 min (loops)

Hand-painted Serpentine Dance Quilt is the corresponding video quilt in the “Cinema Sanctuary” series. In it, Gschwandtner hand-paints the frames of the film, reimagining each within the visual language of a pieced quilt. The video and film quilts offer an alternative to the male-dominated history of film, and a literal mending and repairing of film history.

Courtesy the artist
The Enchanted Loom (Part II)
Material: 16 mm film, polyamide thread, and LEDS
Dimension: 16 x 16 x 3 in. (40.6 x 40.6 x 10.2 cm) each
Collection RISD Museum, Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund, 2013. 32; Photo: Andy Romer
Sabrina Gschwandtner's inspiration and materials
Runtime: 01:24 min
Courtesy the artist