Linda Hutchins


Linda Hutchins at the Art Gym at Marylhurst University

by Sue Taylor
Art in America, September, 2004

From murals woven of plastic caution tape, Linda Hutchins has moved to a smaller scale and another form of linear text: typewriting. With the delicate drawings in Reiterations (all 2003), she compares typing to traditionally feminine tasks like weaving and knitting. What began as process art—words tapped out over and over on an electric typewriter to signal the artist's investment of time and labor—became an evocative visual poetry.

In the gridded Trousseau, Hutchins repeatedly inscribed each of 20 silk-tissue squares with a single word naming a virtue a bride might bring to her marriage: honesty, passion, trust. The squares conjured linens lovingly embroidered and preserved in hope chests. Also recalling textiles, nine long vellum sheets in Untitled (sorrow) hung over dowel rods in uneven lengths, each one typed thousands of times with the work's subtitle. Spaces recurring at regular intervals but shifting to the right on each subsequent line create an intricate, jacquardlike weave. The ceremonial "towels" suggest a ritual cleansing—perhaps of the emotion reified in the typed incantation.

Hutchins refers to retyping the same word as a meditation or discipline, like reciting a mantra. Occasional typos appear, indicating distraction or fatigue while distinguishing her fallible manual effort, with its palpable impression on the page, from computer-generated text. Clearly, the activity itself is important to Hutchins, a former software engineer who could easily automate her process. Instead, she submitted to months of finger drills, rehearsing, for instance, the adage "You do not miss the water until the well runs dry" to generate a 32-by-7-foot concrete poem. Over nine panels, densely repeated text streams down, the spaces between words forming what typesetters try to avoid: "rivers."

Pondering the aphorisms in old typing manuals led Hutchins to think of parents' admonitions to children. "Pay attention." "Be careful." "Sit still." In "Reiteration," she typed these individual imperatives on nine vellum scrolls. Partly unrolled to hang on the wall, terminating in neat cylinders on a shelf, the translucent scrolls resembled bolts of fabric; the typing, herringbone or tweed. Though related to Hutchins's caution-tape murals with their printed warnings ("Do not cross"), "Reiteration" abandoned the tone of impersonal authority aimed at social control for the voice of the mother, whose solicitous utterances&mdassh;"Don't cry," "Hang on tight"—constitute a more intimate pattern of endless concern. For Hutchins, child rearing, feminine handicraft and art-making have certain things in common: repetition, tedium, devotion and sometimes, as in this exhibition, beautiful results.