by Guest Blogger Debra Tomson Williams
Blam. The first thing I see at the Fiberart International 2007 show is a she. A white mannequin in full wedding garb, and looking lovely. Step up and tiny red text appears. Bridezilla is her name, and all of her private, non-pure thoughts are printed on her white dress. This impressive visual contradiction is the work of Noel Palomo-Lovinski.
Beyond her, a repetitive design of circles catches my eye. Up close, I see that it is Mi-Kyoung Lee's creation. Five thousand black rubber bands hanging on 2,500 tiny nails - an oval the size of arms extending. The materials surprised me. Later, when I read the definition of fiber art on the wall, I learned that it is "work that is made of flexible, linear materials and/or constructed using textile technique such as stitching, weaving, dyeing, embroidering, etc." A broad definition.
Adjacent to rubber bands is Wall of Vessels by Joan Webster-Vore. Small forms are cradled by - and cling to - curled found sticks. They're hung on lines of monofilament in vertical rows, like dreamcatchers - or suncatchers. They look more like tiny boats that you lower into the ocean to collect water than vessels designed to float or nest on air, as the branches suggest. The shadows are seductive.
Since mixed media and conceptual work tends to draw me in, I almost missed some of the more seemingly traditional work. But I retraced my path through the gallery, and two pieces caught my eye.
The first is a digital print on cotton by Joan Dreyer, called Tree Loss #2. Hundreds of sets of stitched score marks - sets of five, four up-and-down and one diagonal. They swarm around the tree like countless bees that have gone without nectar - their nicotine - for too long. It is at least four feet high.
The other piece that I planted myself in front of for awhile was Rustbelt Garden by Camilla Brent Pearce. Antique kimono silk and a vintage chiffon scarf with velvet embossing. The rust and transfer-dyed fabric are layered and stitched together with white silk thread. It is beautiful. I almost didn't notice how it was hung: five sewing needles, evenly spaced along the top. Perfect, I thought. Conceptually complete.
In my car, I contemplated. The presence of the hands behind the work was palpable. The energy and love invested in these pieces is on display in the gallery.
My next stop was Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Fiberart International's second venue. Also inspiring and many favorites there. Marita Lappalainen's The Tradition of Karelia features fish scales and organza, quilt pattern and straight stitch. Unscented...marvelous! Sea Anenome by Yvonne Wakabayashi looks like the world's most luxurious sleeping/shower cap. It's made of Japanese Gunma silk. Netherlandish artist Tilleke Schwarz's Re Do looks like a freehand embroidery-n-bitch sampler. I love it!
Emma Barletta's Bury Me Gently, Adrienne Sloan's Cost of War, and Dorie Millerson's Attachments II are a bit somber. Barletta's piece is a handmade, crocheted throw. Its bright colors and unusual shape combinations drew me in, but when I read the title I started to process it physically. Adrienne's piece is timely and tense: small, similar, crocheted bodies lie limply on their sides - pinned to the wall, and part of "the count." Dorie's cotton thread figurative work is a delicate web, a depiction of a woman trying to hold on to what (or whom) she's created.
Much to my delight, I found a sculpture by Josef Bajus on display at the Brew House's "Vessel" exhibit. TwoKitties' writer Heidi and I met at one of his fiber art workshops at Haystack. The title of this piece was "Deadly Wave (or We Are on the Same Boat)." Screen-printed, cut-and-stitched felt becomes a boat in traction on a newspaper-like sea.
Fiberart International 2007 doesn't blink, spin, project, or animate, and I can't help but find it refreshing. It is silences, processes, text, tradition, impact and beckoning. It isn't the sort of show that happens TO you. It invites, like a fragrant garden. It is an intimate, inspiring experience in public spaces. I wouldn't have absorbed half of what the show had to offer if you hadn't asked me to share it. Thanks, Heidi. Full size photos of the artwork can be viewed at Heidi's Fiberart International photo album.
The Fiberart International 2007 show is in Pittsburgh until August 19. The show is at multiple venues, including The Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and The Brew House. Debra Tomson Williams is a mixed-media artist living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her work was featured on Two Kitties recent post.