Words have new meanings for artist Anna Warfield

With dual undergraduate degrees in communication and fine arts, it’s not a stretch for Whitney Point artist Anna Warfield to turn to words to express her feelings.

“Communicating with text for me was in many ways directly related to finding my voice and acknowledging and accepting how complex it is to communicate with and understand each other as humans,” the Cornell graduate said. “Working with my poetry, I am able to question or play with the associations of a singular word, with paired words, with word groupings, and so on.”

She has translated her voice into soft, stuffed poems and statements that make one pause to think about their meaning. “Monologue” is a blue sculpture that reads ill-informed monologue. “Counting Sheep” is another blue piece that repeats the word dream nine times.

Both of those pieces are located in the Schweinfurth Art Center’s half of Warfield’s “All Things Being Blue” exhibit, which is also located in the Cayuga Museum of History & Art. Warfield is the second artist to be featured in the joint Emerging Artists project during the first year of the collaboration.

Warfield’s artwork focuses on words because, as a woman, she often felt her words were interrupted and disregarded. “Working with text was my response to that feeling,” she said. “It’s my way of forcing the attention and conversation in a space towards my ideas and what I have to say.”

Equally as important to her is working with fabric. “As an artist, I reclaim methods of making typically coded as feminine (i.e. sewing) in the interest of questioning perceptions of femininity in today’s society,” she said. “In working with both fiber and text, I address complexities in sexuality, femininity, ownership, language, and voice.”

The materials serve to further complicate the picture, she added.

“Beyond employing “women’s work” in the service of an unabashedly feminist voice the fibrous materials also initially caused the works to read like comfort objects – squishable and soft – before revealing themselves to be explicit, demanding, or contorted,” she continued. “The fabric’s light colors and soft textures mask the tone of the text, disguising dominance with submission.”

Warfield decided to curate the selections at each space primarily by color, with blue pieces at the Schweinfurth and pink ones at the Cayuga Museum. Why those colors?

“I began working with the color pink at a point where I was coming to terms with and embracing my feminine side after an extended period of suppressing my femininity,” she explained. “I embraced pink and then later blue to leverage the stereotypical associations with binary gender.”

The switch to blue occurred during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The language present in the blue pieces in my ‘Soft Thorn’ series came from a place of tiredness after experiencing innumerable monologues that ultimately stated nothing by overconfident male figures in life and in the media,” she said.

To bridge the two parts of the exhibit, Warfield placed different versions of “Sweeping Statement” in both locations. At the Cayuga Museum, Warfield took the large-scale installation that had been on display outdoors in Skaneateles during fall 2020 and arranged the bright pink words on the floor as “Sweeping Statement (Swept).” At the Schweinfurth, she installed a smaller blue version on the wall. Warfield also used pieces from her “Command” series in both museums.

Warfield’s exhibit is on display at the Schweinfurth Art Center and Cayuga Museum of History & Art through Oct. 9, 2021. The institutions are offering a discounted $12 admission to see “All Things Being Blue” as well as all exhibits at both locations. The Schweinfurth is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. The Cayuga Museum is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

The Schweinfurth Art Center’s programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.