Though my eyes had seen plenty for a single day and my mind was spinning...Steve and I drove into Charlotte and checked into our hotel room. Soon, we were walking up the street to the downtown Mint Museum of Craft and Design. On view is Fiberarts International 2007, an international, juried biennial organized by the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh. I was rejected from this event...along with hundreds and hundreds of others...only about six or seven percent of the submitted works were accepted. We saw the last biennial while it was in Pittsburgh and hadn't been that impressed. This time, I was blown away.
Fortunately, Steve kept me walking. He'd scoped out the floor plan and subtly directed me on a path that took me by each piece. Had he not, I might still be there. Much of my reaction came in waves of awe but there were moments of giggling, confusion, and pure joy too. I made a few notes. I couldn't take my eyes off some of the best work, however, in order to write. Thus, my notes are really just that...notes! A way to help me remember a vision, an inspiration, an idea.
Here are some of the things I wrote: Maria Simonsson's Fragment # 5 included what appeared to be rusted nails welded into a wreathe-like circle that conveyed the feeling of an antique map's compass perfectly. These weren't rusted nails used just because they were "cool"; they were so much more. Found fabrics and flattened birch bark formed the base. It was a map. There was a stitched circle indicating "home". Each individual piece helped create the whole. Personal touches united for a universal work. I so wanted to use the birch bark I collected a couple years ago in Alaska but I didn't know how. She did. She did it wondrously....because she used it because it was important to the overall meaning of the work...not just a "cool" technique, an interesting found object, but a key or symbol to a greater meaning. I need to remember this.
While typing this, I'm "googling" the artists. Thus, this entry will serve one of the primary reasons I started this blog over a year ago....to be a place where I can record my inspirations and artistic journey and to learn from what I experience. Thus, I found an image from the series I saw by Maria Simonsson and a link to her personal website.
Mary Sleigh's A Fine Line is a great book, uniquely combining the text from Needlework: Practical and Decorative by Jan Strachan, 1921 with her own stitching and binding. Brilliant...use what you love...all of it...don't compartmentalize the different areas of your own interests.
So, I've now "googled" this British talent...I'm stunned all over again. The work on exhibit didn't inform me about another passion...Africa! Now, I'll be looking for this book and will revisit her website too. There's lots to be learned here!
Camile Brent Pearce created Rustbelt Garden from a scrap of an antique silk kimino overlaid with a velour embossed vintage chiffon scarf. It was rust and transfer dyed and stitched by hand. What drew me to this piece was its subtlety. The techniques used weren't "in your face" but each seemed to compliment one another. Had there been no label, I would only have figured out "kimino" and "hand stitched"...everything else blended into a perfect piece.
I found nothing more on-line...but that's okay. I need to remember that technique shouldn't be the focal point or the reason for making a work of art. This is often one of my mistakes and greatest temptations. I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Here was a work made by a master's hand...someone who wasn't driven by technique but controlled them...made techniques into tools, methods for expression.
Angela Silver had dozens upon dozens of spools...mostly wooden...wrapped in strips of text. All were arranged atop a white pedestal covered in a plexi-glass cube. They were interesting. I liked them...in fact, I would have loved them but I couldn't quite get away from the fact that I, too, had submitted my wooden spools...painted, wrapped in yarns, stitched, and collaged with faces.
Daniella Woolf's Beauty at My Feet was one of the most compelling pieces in the show. I found an image of it on Daniella's website. Yet, there is no way that a photo can do this texture justice or reveal how the colors blended or the natural elements worked with the encaustic waxes. It was simply outstanding.
Gabriella Kecseti is a Hungarian artist and her work was an assemblage of raffia like reeds meshed into paper-like fabric. Here technique seemed a reason to create a work but the result really wasn't the expected impression. Instead of making me wonder, "How was this done?" (my normal response to many technique inspired work), I wondered, "What is it?" The process managed to make a work that conjured up ideas of an agrarian world, mysterious...like the remains of an untold story.
Noel Palomo-Lovinski's Bridezilla was just the right piece for me to enjoy between sometimes overly serious moments. Though Noel has no personal website, a photo of this bridal garb isn't really even necessary. It was a lovely white dress...just what one might imagine in a formal wear shop window. What set it apart, made it hysterical, and created a way to discuss many of the silent truths about weddings was the pink print upon the fabric. The text read like stream of consciousness writing...all the doubts on the morning of the "big day". All the modern day stresses associated with the ceremony.
Cutting edge, contemporary fiber exhibits always include many, many works that are driven by technological advances...or just ways in which new machinery and digital applications are being incorporated into the realm of fibers. I really love these novel ways of using computers and industrial processes. Yet, generally, many of the results leave me as "cold" as those pieces whose inspiration is "technique" driven. In fact, I think it is the same thing...the new technologies are the new techniques and many times it is for its own sake.
Joan Dreyer's Tree of Loss # 2 is why we must abide the "technology for technology's sake" and "technique for technique's sake" work. Because, eventually, true artistry rings out. Technology is employed for statement, for meaning, for beauty, as a tool for self-expression. I could have gazed at this piece for an hour and not fully appreciated it. It is a "whole cloth" quilt with a digital print of a winter tree....obviously modern technology was essential. What made is ART was, however, the way in which the image was combined with hand stitching in order to transcend the technique and even the medium. The work profoundly WORKED...it was a "Tree of Loss"...it didn't even need a title. On every level this was brilliance. The stitching was simple...straight stitches...like those keeping count...four vertical lines with a single diagonal...five. The arrangement of these grouping focused attention on the center. The coloring subtly darkened to the outside.
Steve and I stood for quite a while in front of Emiko Nakano's Ruins. Though it was an interesting combination of paper, paper making and weaving, there was a feeling to which I could relate. There was a sense of decay, antiquity, layering, foreign text, contrasting colors, and of familiarity. Nothing about it was made using approaches I use but it "spoke" to me. From this feeling, I must draw inspiration.
There were many, many other pieces I could have written about, made notes about, been inspired by, and noticed more publicly. There were even awards...but I didn't pay attention to this. However, had I been asked to place a ribbon on just one piece, it would have been Lesley Richmond's Leaf Vein Lace.
Okay, okay....I know that I'm trying to come to grips with "technique" and "technology" and find my personal way to incorporate these "tools" into artistic statements. I know this is paramount in taking the "next step" artistically....yet, I cannot help myself when it comes to this work. It is brilliant and I'm totally blown away by whatever unique heat-reactive techniques were employed. There is no personal website or immediately apparent image for me to use. No words will adequately describe the texture of this three piece (though is truly appears to be a single unit) detail of a decomposed leaf vein. The label read, "Heat-reactive base, cotton, rust patina, metallic paint, devore, screen printing paint". I have absolutely no idea what was cotton or how this was made. My "google" search brought me to a website listing a "portfolio" that is no longer available. It read:
Portfolio Vol 40: Lesley Richmond
end October 2007. Prize winning artist from Vancouver, Canada. Lesley Richmond creates textiles that suggest organic surfaces. Distressing techniques and chemical processes allow her to alter the surface structure of the fibre in to an illusion of organic decay.
Time for more research!