ART IN AMERICA
December 21, 2018 - Leah Ollman
What matters to Klea McKenna registers immediately when you take her book, Generation, into your hands. For her, touch is on a par with vision. Surface and image are inextricable. McKenna works in the dark, embossing light-sensitized paper through pressured contact with objects, then exposing the textured sheets to the raking beam of a flashlight. In the past, she has made such “photographic rubbings” using the cross-sections of trees; in Generation, she uses different types of handmade fabrics, from a fringed Spanish shawl to an embroidered Pakistani dress. Some of these photograms are included in the book, along with a text in which McKenna reflects on the material history and intimate use of the textiles. Also included are montages of reference photographs, old and new, ethnographic, cinematic, and vernacular. Like the fabrics, like skin, the book’s cover has a distinct life—the cover of my copy will not look or feel like the cover of yours, since a unique one has been created from the residue of the making of the work for each edition in the limited print run. In case we needed the prompt, the inside back cover is stamped with the directive: FEEL ME.