BY MARY BENTZ GILKERSON
Cyber Fyber is not your average gallery exhibition. It is the culmination of a monumental, yearlong project developed by Columbia-area fiber artist Susan Lenz. The project was inspired by the sense of community she developed with other fiber artists around the world through her blogging experiences.
The Internet is a vast web of resources that is very attractive for visual artists in particular. Most artists use it to market their work through web sites and online galleries. But many others are taking advantage of the social and professional networking opportunities not only to market their work, but also to create ties with other artists throughout the world. Some limit themselves to the main social networks like MySpace and Facebook; others use using free blogging sites to create their own networks.
Lenz has done all of the above: She has 12 blogs associated with the Cyber Fyber exhibit alone.
Arlee Bar, Cache (detail)
The quality of the artwork is high, but the most important thing about the exhibit is the process Lenz used to put it together. It is a manifestation of the paradigm shift in the art world resulting from artists making full use of the Internet to control their own careers.
Art entrepreneurs like Lenz are going beyond simply organizing their own local exhibitions to building national and international networks that they can use for both marketing and professional support. Lenz was able to curate a truly international fiber arts exhibition purely from the contacts that she made via her blog, an unthinkable feat 10 years ago. The show includes work by artists from more than 26 countries including Australia, England, Germany and Canada, as well as the United States.
Cyber Fyber has two components: 400-plus fiber cards that Lenz traded with other artists, and larger works by 17 artists in an invitational section.
Some of the small cards are little gems, but the main impact of this section comes from the sheer visual weight of so many pieces. The grid pattern that was used to hang the pieces makes this section read as one large quilt.
The invitational section has some more traditional work, but most of the work could stand on its own in any contemporary art setting. Cyber Fyber is a four-panel book piece by Jacqueline de Jong of the Netherlands. Accordion folds allow the work to stand on its own on the pedestal where the viewer can see both the front and the back of the panels. She uses a range of dark earth tones in her richly textured abstracts.
Fulvia Boriani Luciano, from South Carolina, also works with abstract forms and shapes. She creates quilted hanging pieces in various grid formats, exploring subtle color relationships.
Penny Sisto of Indiana also makes quilted wall pieces, but she uses representational imagery to create narratives that deal very openly with social commentary. Strange Fruit VI is dominated by a large female figure, her mouth open in a scream or cry. To her right, six male figures swing in the branches of a tree.
The range of work in both sections gives an overview of the broad range of styles and content being addressed by contemporary fiber artists. The invitational has allowed Lenz to go deep with the work of the 17 selected artists.
The exhibit showcases the potential of the Internet to change the reigning dealer/artist art-world paradigm. The role of the middleman, i.e. the dealer, hasn’t been eliminated — yet — but that role is definitely shifting.
Cyber Fyber will be on view through Jan. 20. A variety of related activities are taking place in conjunction with the exhibit. Visit the main Cyber Fyber blog at
cyberfyberexhibition.blogspot.com for more information.