The Museums of Old York is presenting “Unraveled – Contemporary New England Fiber Art,” September 20 – December 6. The exhibition brings together the work of 18 regional artists who investigate and experiment with various forms of fiber in their artistic practice. While often paying homage to textile traditions, these contemporary fiber artists take advantage of a wide range of materials and techniques to create works that present their ideas, provoke commentary and pique visual enjoyment.
There have been a number of other museum exhibitions featuring contemporary fiber art, most recently at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA, the American Textile Museum in Lowell, MA, and the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art. York’s “Unraveled” further pushes the limits of pre-conceived notions of materials, context and scale.
Adjacent to the exhibition’s introductory label is a three-panel, woven tapestry titled “Rain” by Vermont artist Bhakti Ziek. The artist is an expert in digital jacquard weaving and this radiant textile incorporates silk, cotton, rayon, and metallic yarns. To the left is a suspended shawl titled “Portrait of Alzheimer,” by Maine artist Katharine Cobey. The hand spun silk and wool threads begin in an orderly pattern from the lower-left, continue over the shoulder, and as it descends down to the right, the patterns degrade into a web of threads that spread out in disarray along the floor. Cobey is nationally recognized for her fiber sculpture and teaching.
Although these first two examples incorporate recognizable fiber materials, there is a serious shift as one proceeds into the gallery. Warren Seelig’s “Stone Carpet/Shadowfield” is a ten foot wide “weaving” constructed of stainless steel and red rock shards which cast dancing shadows on the wall. Seelig (Rockland, ME) is an artist with an international reputation, with his work included in over 30 major museum exhibitions in the United States, Europe, Japan and Korea.
“Stone Carpet/Shadowfield” by Warren Selig
Within view of Seelig’s piece is “Wallpapered Space” by Samantha Fields. (Brockton, MA) The artist has adapted the piece to fit an 8 by 11 foot section of wall. It is made up of recycled crocheted afgans, framing and embroidered vinyl siding. Her patterns are hole-punched into the vinyl siding and then embellished with bright colored acrylic yarns. Although the materials are “plastic” and “perhaps a bit tacky” the end result has a certain charm and whimsy and questions our idea of beauty.
The exhibition includes four “dresses” by Vermont artist Wylie Sophia Garcia which are a part of her project “The Dress That Makes the Woman – One Year. Twelve Dresses. One artist’s challenge to create and to wear a work of art for each month of the year.” Garcia intended to embark upon a ritualized creative challenge: to wear and to work daily on a dress for one month at a time for an entire year. The final sculptural “dresses” were her performance piece and personal diary as she went about her daily life in Burlington, Vermont.
New Bedford artist Elin Noble exhibits a bold, red and black itajime shibori quilt. The artist has spent more than 30 years investigating traditional and contemporary dye techniques, focusing on Japanese itajime shibori (clamp-dye resist).
Vermont artist Michele Ratté uses drawing, printmaking, collage, and innovative textile printing processes to make her work. Her series of “Island” pieces and her most recent work, “Maze” use 22kt gold and palladium mono-prints on hand-loomed silk, linen, velum and fishing line. The pieces are elegantly displayed in acrylic cases lit from below.
A wide variety of materials, process and techniques are represented in the exhibition which is indicative of many of today’s fiber artists. During meetings with several diverse groups of participants Jodi Colella (Somerville, MA) created “Hive” which is made up of aluminum screen chambers stitched together with steel wire. In this installation the piece crawls up the gallery wall, casting deep shadows and creating negative spaces.
Merill Comeau (Concord, MA) uses painted vintage linens, composted fabric samples and deconstructed clothing for her wall installations. Melita Westerlund (Bar Harbor, ME) uses shredded blue jean fibers in her sculptural “Environmental Chaos,” Sallie Findlay (Deer Isle, ME) uses repurposed cotton scallop bags collected from local fisherman, and Allison Cooke Brown (Portland, ME) incorporates Q Reader codes into her work. Also on exhibit are works by Elizabeth Billings (Tunbridge, Vermont), Lisa Grey (Portsmouth, NH), Sarah Haskell (York, ME), Priscilla Nicholson (Brunswick, ME), Adrienne Sloane (Lexington, MA), and Katharine Whild (North Yarmouth, ME.)
There are several programs scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition.
Artist Merill Comeau will give a talk on Sunday October 5, 3 p.m. “Fiber Art Now: An Artist’s Perspective. Katharine Cobey will present a day long, knitting workshop, “Culling the Greats” on Saturday, October 25. Exhibition curator Mary Harding will give a gallery talk “My Fiber Road Trips” on Sunday, November 2, 3 pm. Historian Lynne Zacek Bassett will present “HerStory in Civil War Quilts” on Wednesday, November 5, 6 p.m. For further information on these programs please refer to the Museum’s web site www.oldyork.org.
Gallery hours are Thursday – Saturday 10-4, Sunday 1-4 through December 6th.
3 Lindsay Road, York, Maine. 207-363-4974