Shelley memorializes history into digital art!

Shelley memorializes history into digital art!

Through our ongoing What’s on your Loom series, we continue to showcase the creations of artists from across the world! And this time, we present US-based Shelley Socolofsky’s latest works, which explore the relationship between place and embodied experience! This project entailed reworking, through weaving (as in ‘raveling’ in relation to unraveling), of social narratives and historical events in need of reparation. Shelley tells us more…

Locating entanglements between image, pattern, folklore, and archaeology, I consider the labor of hand and digital weaving a ritual process and, as such, a strategy for memorialization and repair. These woven objects function as protest banners, warning signage, and prayer flags. The two images below, are of the works titled, Mudwrestle Mashup (2020) and the materials used here are cotton, silk, polyester, metal coated rayon, steel chain.

And the two following images are of the works titled, Scroll (Aleppo, Syria after 2015) , which were created in 2017. This 29” x 77” woven piece is installed at Concordia University in Montreal (QB, Canada). The materials used here are light reflective glass thread, resin, metal, and cotton. Photo credits: Guy L Heureux.

A recent residency in Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy, sponsored by the Civita Institute*, has given rise to a new series of digital ‘tapestries’ as a way to record, preserve, and memorialize the current moment in this ever-shifting landscape. Civita, originally settled by the Etruscans upon a volcanic butte located on the border of the ancient Volsini volcano, rests on fragile clay and lives in the chasm between endogenous factors and morphogenetic agents that build up this enchanting landscape.This shifting scape, along with many hundred years of human intervention working tirelessly to restore and suspend its demise from landslides, earthquakes, and erosion, have left Civita di Bagnoregio suspended in a delicate condition between being an environmental resource and a natural hazard.

Civita di Bagnoregio

Civita di Bagnoregio

The Medieval aged structures atop the rock – where successive cultural layers have produced a harmonious ensemble of pink tiled stone masonry buildings (built from the consolidated tuff volcanic stone upon which it sits) with large buttress foundational supports at its base, rests upon a honeycombed network of caves, columbaria, and tunnels; sub layers of rooms descending down inside the tuff peak. The clay located at the base of this tuff mount is in constant erosive movement exacerbated by water, wind, and the geomorphological surrounding landscape.

Architectural structures sitting precariously on cliff’s edge, landslides have forced various sections off throughout its lifespan. Civita is a case where human presence has tried for centuries to hinder the natural degradation of the cliff upon which it sits.

Digital Collage prepared for weaving

Topographical maps dating back to the beginning of the 18th century, as well as other historical records of landslides and stabilization efforts dating back to 1373 AD have been collected. Pre-Enlightenment rituals are still practiced alongside current geo-technical projects, architectural preservation methods, seismic detection devices, and underground “root pile” cable anchors for structure stabilization, all co-mingle to create this tenuous and remarkable cultural landscape.

Casa Greco, a medieval structure named after its most recent inhabitants, sits fissured upon the fragile North edge of the cliff edge. Recent seismic shifting has demolished the structure. My residency research centered around the gathering of data from this and other fragile periphery: images, landslide data, measurements, surface rubbings, in addition to climatic ephemeral affects capturing the moment: light, shadow, wind induced markings on surfaces.

Now, back in the studio, I embed this collected data into digital collages as the basis for new digital tapestries.  In this way, I memorialize and record the specificity of this periphery, knowing it will soon be but a memory.

Above, is a picture of Casa Greco North Side, digital collage prepared for weaving, incorporating diagrams of cliff layer fracturing, landslide data and slope stratigraphy, destabilized and ruined architectural structures, transitory light, shadow and blooming flowers of spring, 2020.

Just as this magical and mournfully beautiful place merges past with present – so, too, does the practice of hand digital weaving.

And then, a picture (below) of the Italian RedCross in Civita piazza – as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down Italy, March 20, 2020.


Like the Medieval weaver, Shelley Socolofsky is a nomad at heart, having called many landscapes, from the shifting coastlines of Crete and California, to the cobbled, lavender Languedoc fields, home. Fueled by the sensations of touch and light, Shelley apprenticed with master tapestry weavers in France, and at Arte della Seta Lisio in Italy before earning her MFA in textiles. Currently on the faculty of Art + Design at Portland State University, Shelley lives with her 4 dogs, 8 birds, a handful of rabbits, her sustainable garden, and her partner in their ongoing collaborative historic renovation project outside of Portland, Oregon.


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*More about Civita Institute: The Civita Institute inspires creative excellence through education, cultural exchange, and exploration of the unique qualities of Italian hill towns. Their historic arts and architecture-focused facilities are located in Civita di Bagnoregio, one of the most beautiful hill towns in Italy. The Civita Institute was founded on the idea that architecture and preservation, environmental stewardship, agricultural heritage and cultural exchange are all linked and that Civita, and other hill towns of Italy, provide a unique setting to experience these connections.