Her idiosyncratic combinations are classified as bricolage, a technique that uses objects at hand to create. That makes sewing, weaving, binding, patching and crocheting vital elements of the work.
Although it may seem randomly assembled, just the opposite is true.
“Random is harder than people think,” said Shawne Major, the 40-year-old full-time artist who assembles the disparate objects into art. “The way I incorporate it is with e-Bay. Someone’s used sewing kit, for instance. Something I didn’t choose myself.
“I like objects with other lives.”
Each densely sculptural “curtain” contains countless objects, thickly interwoven and intellectually layered to suggest a subconscious ordering of reality. Her metaphor is that of a house, where the domestic represents the interior of the psyche. Windows symbolize the bigger picture, and the curtains are your eyes, the filters you see through. Toys are the inner child, cups and bowls embody the feminine. Other items can be many things, including our survival strategies.
For Major, the linear elements in her work are tantamount to drawing, and she chooses materials she can use as lines. She considers the pinning-on part as the drawing phase and listens to audio books while sewing.
“It’s intuitive where things go,” she said. “I don’t know what it will look like in the end. It’s about the size, about color, and has to be vague. I want to make art, some surprise to happen.”
Her thoughts go into the pieces, as does the current political climate. "Nadir," a tapestry of prom and bridesmaid dresses, wire, roses, candy tins, baby bottle parts, beads and charms, is a reflection on her own experience.
“It’s really personal. There’s some divorce work and figurative elements,” said Major, who has always considered herself a feminist. ““I want the whole thing to read on its own, but it goes through that filter. It’s my accent.”
"Bud Sport" — the term is agricultural and means bud mutation or bud variation, for example, a red flowered branch on a white flowering plant — combines poultry netting, coveralls, leather horse bridles, electric wire, pantyhose, plastic toys, doll clothes and a stuffed toy.
“That’s as figurative as my work gets,” she said. “I want my work to live longer than the moment, but everything that happens in the environment goes into the work.”
She made a piece, "Inure," after the BP oil spill. "We’ve gotten used to things we never thought we would,” she said.
And while the kitsch and plastic butterflies may lend a certain whimsy and childish naiveté, the results are unmistakably fine art sophisticated.
Major’s work is mostly in private collections, and although she says more people are working like her, she hasn’t seen anyone showing objects in the same way.
“I’m a midcareer artist,” she said with a smile. “It’s a ridiculously hard field.”
Originally from New Iberia, Major is represented by Callan Contemporary in New Orleans and Marcia Wood Gallery in Atlanta. She has work in the Renwick Gallery of The Smithsonian and will have 10 pieces at New Orleans' Delgado Museum of Art in late August. Her "Hundreth Monkey," on loan from Callan Contemporary, is on display until 2018 in the 20th century section of "Art in Louisiana: Views into the Collection" at the LSU Museum of Art at the Shaw Center in downtown Baton Rouge. "Nadir," "Bud Sport" and "Vestige" reside until mid May at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Museum of Art in Lafayette.
Major is also the recipient of a Pollack-Krasner Grant and a Rauschenberg residency.
“I’ve benefited from several artists’ legacies," she said. "My work’s gotten denser, literally and figuratively.”
Spotlight on Shawne Major
WHERE: Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, 710 E. St. Mary Blvd., Lafayette
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays; 10 a.m.to 5 p.m. Saturdays