Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fran Gardner's solo exhibition at the Florence Museum

Last night Steve and I drove through a wintry mix of rain and snow to Florence, South Carolina for Fran Gardner's art show reception at the museum. The exhibition is called "Orienting the Self: Studies in Time, Place and Person" and includes twenty-nine pieces of machine embroidery mounted on wooden boards with paint, found objects, acrylic transfers, and nails. Most of the work was quite new, nineteen produced during the past two years. They show the direction in which Fran is taking her work, to a more painterly end that blends her free motion zigzag into the colorful wood support. Her new work is about color and the fabric and the paint relate to one another...their similarities and differences. Four painted nudes include details in stitch. Ancient Wisdom was one of the strongest in the exhibition and truly united embroidery with paint, fine craft with fine art. Fran's wooden supports have also changed to include wainscoting with layers of subtly changing acrylics. She has also introduced hand beading as a meaningful accent, as in The Weight of the Line: Family (seen above), the delicate black line flowing down the left side of the focal, red mark. Personally, I prefer Fran's earlier work; but, that's because I'm not a painter. I adore the seemingly unrelated objects placed in harmony on her panels...the tarot cards with the circuit boards, the house numbers with the bits of rust, the National Park Service maps with fragments of foreign text...all with embroidery tying the whole into one. Fran's work has always taken me to a special, personal place...alone in a crowd with swirling ideas and strangely familiar symbolism.

What I will remember most, however, is one line in her statement: "I constantly remind myself to trust that the process will reveal my intention and my audience will understand." To me, this is significant and worth repeating often to myself...worthwhile advice from a master embroiderer.

(Above: Difficulty in Translation. This is the piece that won first place in the Southeaster Bienniel Juried Show: Fiber Fantasia in Duluth, Georgia. Funny, it is also the one I picked as my personal favorite in last year's exhibition in Camden, SC. I blogged about it here.)

(Above: Orienting the Self.)

From the Florence Museum website

A native South Carolinian, Fran Gardner lives and works in
the communities of Heath Springs and Lancaster, not far
from her birthplace, Hartsville. She earned her BFA from
Columbia College (1982) and later, her MFA from Vermont
College of Norwich University (1993). She is an associate
professor of art and art history at the University of South
Carolina Lancaster where she teaches a variety of
foundations studio courses and art history and
appreciation. Her work has been exhibited regionally and
nationally and published in several journals and books. In
her summer 2005 article in Fiberarts Magazine, Rhonda
Sonnenberg described Gardner’s work:
“Fran Gardner's sensuous work always begins with
stitching, which draws the viewer almost unaware into a
universe submerged by time, memory, and place. A sea of
petroglyphs, ancient text, celestial calendars, medieval
tarot cards, maps, numbers even computer motherboards,
all of which speak to a universal, timeless language,
encases Gardner's hand drawn human form like a soft

While she is generally known as a fiber artist, Gardner has
gained national attention in mixed media collage. The
stitchery portions of her work are machine sewn using
thread on canvas or cloth. The completed stitchery is then
mounted with her drawings and paintings and often
embellished with found objects and beads.
Recent awards include First Place for her entry "Difficulty
in Translation" exhibited in the Southeastern Bienniel
Juried Show: Fiber Fantasia, in Duluth, GA; and First Place
for her entry "Trying to Remember the Beginning" in the
28th Annual Statewide Art Competition, Florence Museum
of Art Science and History.

Gardner is married to Van Richardson and has one
daughter, Keller and two step-daughters, Mandy and


Doreen G said...

A great artist indeed Susan-lucky you to get to see her work in person.

paulahewitt said...

Great quote from Fran -I wish I'd read that before I'd posted my TIF challenge piece. It was what I was thinking, but didnt/couldnt articulate.