Trans artist Poppy DeltaDawn believes in evolution and pliability. Her work is a reminder of impermanence and the constant transformation of bodies—living bodies and bodies of land.
Humans, how they relate to the land and its resources, find manifestation in DeltaDawn’s handwork. She creates weavings from raw sheep’s fleece: she cleans it, cards it, dyes it, spins it, and weaves it before quilting the cloth onto panels.
Poppy DeltaDawn’s work is part of the group show “Leaving the Body,” curated by Morgan Everhart. The show also features works by Mel Reese, Alyssa McClenaghan, and Natasha Wright. The exhibition is on view at The Yard City Hall Park in New York City through November 5, 2021.
We spoke with DeltaDawn about her process, the magic of machines, and why she’s more interested in the role of materials rather than the form of bodies.
How does your artwork relate to your identity?
Poppy DeltaDawn: My weavings are produced from raw sheep’s fleece: I purchase a whole fleece off the sheep’s back, clean and card it, dye it, spin it, and then weave it before quilting the new cloth onto stretched panels by hand. This process gives me a front seat ticket to witness the sheep being transformed from body into cloth. As a trans woman, I am interested in this transition and wonder about the transitioning of bodies and how we replicate this process over and over.
What sparked your interest in weaving?
Poppy DeltaDawn: When I went to college, the moment I saw the floor looms I knew that I would have to operate them. Something about the magic of a machine that only uses power from the body is so seductive. I have always been drawn to textiles and fiber though, and crocheted as a child, and graduated to knitting in high school. Until I reached college, where there was a fiber department, I don’t think I realized that my art could occupy the same space as my investment in fiber.
What characteristics of the human form do you incorporate into your artwork? Conversely, what characteristics of the human form do you consciously refrain from depicting in your art?
Poppy DeltaDawn: I don’t think about the characteristics of human form so much: I am more interested in the material of bodies and human relationships to the land and its resources. In my work, I try to keep in mind the hierarchical structure of a human-dominated world. Rather than depicting or expressing a human form, my work is a manifestation of it: the handwork that transforms the sheep to cloth is quiet but objectively a part of the object, just as it is with all pieces of cloth and clothing.
Who do you make your art for and why?
Poppy DeltaDawn: I have no idea who I make my work for, but I will say that the context of its location, the United States, cannot be split from the work. The United States has a unique relationship with labor, the textile industry, and cloth. Because it relies so heavily on less expensive imports from overseas rather than domestic production, many Americans do not know where cloth and textiles come from, and more specifically, who produces them or how they are made. Because of this, ancient and ubiquitous textile processes like carding, spinning, and weaving are shrouded in mystery and can almost be thought of as anachronisms here. With this in mind, I hope that my work is also thought of as mysterious and even magical.
What are your artworks recontextualizing or exposing?
Poppy DeltaDawn: My artwork is a reminder of the impermanence and constant transition of bodies, whether in reference to our own bodies, sheep and other natural resources, or the land, which I also think of as a kind of body.
Could you share the process and intentions of creating “What I Saw On A Journey (Basket)”?
Poppy DeltaDawn: The “What I Saw On A Journey” series is drawn from a night of discovery via psilocybin. I experienced vivid and beautiful hallucinations, and these three weavings (only “Basket” is on view at The Yard) were of some visions I witnessed on my trip in my apartment. This particular experience was the moment I let go of any final doubts of my decision to go forward with my medical transition. I had a vision of how my body was meant to be. These weavings were made on a TC-II loom, which is a type of jacquard loom. This machine allows the weaver to lift threads in any order and combination with the aid of a computer and air compressor, allowing for infinite design possibilities. They are wool with a cotton warp and are still woven by my hand, line by line at the loom.
What is some advice, feedback, or reflections that you would like to share with other artists?
Poppy DeltaDawn: I am currently soliciting advice, feedback, and reflections myself, so I am afraid I can’t offer much help, but I do like to remind myself to keep moving, keep learning, and keep changing. Like everything else, art evolves as its context evolves. Stay pliable.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or events?
Poppy DeltaDawn: I just started an experimental YouTube tutorial in collaboration with Dana Davenport titled “How to: ING” at Ortega y Gasset Projects in early October. Also, I will have a new weaving in a group show curated by Courtney Childress at Standard Space, called “Country Come to Town,” also this month.