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Christi Birchfield

Artist Statement


My experience of living in the changing seasons of the Midwest, driving through the impoverished neighborhoods of Cleveland and then a few miles later into neighborhoods of exponential wealth, watching my parents age, and having a baby influence my approach to my work. I tend to believe there to be a cyclical nature to all things; that when something dies, something new is born. With death comes rebirth, or an alternate realm, and in this, a mystery exists that is both seductive and horrifying. Vanitas themed paintings of the 16th and 17th century were meant to remind viewers of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death. While my work explores abstract themes, there is similarity in the function of seduction and drama resulting is an unsettling horror. As I create canvas constructions, often in direct scale to my own body, I am reminded of a hanging carcass, my own body’s interior. This calls to mind the first x-ray ever performed by Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen in 1895. He took an x-ray of his wife’s hand. Upon seeing the image, she responded, “I have seen my death”, a response suggesting that when the body is distilled to material, the ultimate conclusion is mortality. In a recent piece titled Reconfiguration, I stretch bleached and dyed canvas cut outs from the wall to the floor to create a layered/flowering form. The title suggests, that once things die, there is a cycle that will continue to develop beyond what is perceived to be the end. I apply bleach paste to dyed black canvas. Before the bleach sets, I fold the fabric in half, to create a Rorschach-effect. Next, I set to work to cut out the space between the marks, resulting in forms that resemble a ribcage or a carcass.

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