“A hole is a really beautiful form,” says artist Anne Wilson. “It’s very

complete in itself.”

She began her “Disrepair/Disperse” series after her mother gave her a large collection of family linens. Some were two generations old, and many had holes in them. “This cloth had connections for me to formality and propriety,” she says. “Linens are used at formal dinners.” Because of these associations, Wilson says, “a hole or a bit of hair on this cloth would be quite undesirable.” So she uses black thread to stitch strands of hair around the edges of the holes, binding up the frayed edge along with the hair. But she also stitches into other parts of the fabric, “sometimes to reinforce it where it has weakened, sometimes to hold down that unruly hair that wouldn’t bind to the hole’s edge, and sometimes based on how it looks.” The results are beautiful and creepy–the white fabric flecked with black seems both elegant and dirty. Wilson says these pieces remind her of astronomical and microscopic images, cigarette burns, orifices of the body.

“Subtly subversive” is how she describes her recent work with fabric. Instead of mending a hole, she stitches it open. She wants to challenge traditional social hierarchies–to make the old and the worn as valuable as the clean and the new. “The works have connections to darning, to reweaving an area to strengthen it, which hardly anyone does today in the West. Holes mean wear. Abrasion is something that shows use, that brings with it history and memory and locates the object more particularly within culture. Among the contradictions that one could think about in my work are the relationships between beauty and ugliness, cleanliness and dirt, the new and the used, manners and rudeness, the socially acceptable and the socially deviant.”

Recently she began setting up a Web site that will become an archive of the answers people gave when she asked how they felt about haircutting and hair loss. “I’m interested in playing out these issues and ideas using new technologies,” she says. “I’m not always a mad stitcher.”

Wilson’s work will be on view this weekend at Revolution Gallery’s booth at the SOFA Chicago art fair, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand. The show is open 11 to 8 Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6 Sunday. Tickets are $10, $16 for a three-day pass. For more information call 800-561-7632 or go to www.sofaexpo.com. –Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nathan Mandell.