Sunday, November 23, 2014


  Sometimes the little things are the real gems.
I've  been a fan of Mary Harding,  curator of the George Marshall Store Gallery, from the first time I saw her "curatorial style" at that gallery.  I was pretty sure that the Contemporary New England Fiber Art display, "Unraveled," at the Museum in Old York would be cool, too. "Only" eighteen regional artists but what variety, talent and vision!

When I arrived at the museum I was serendipitously fortunate to fall in behind four souls to whom Ms. Harding herself was giving a guided tour!  I don't remember every word, and I may have mis-attributed some of these works, but I'll try to fill you in.  (and if you know of errors, please let me know!) Be sure to remember that each artist retains her or his copyright, too!

  Entering the upstairs of "the barn," one sees this piece, entitled "Rain." It was woven in silk, cotton, rayon and metallic threads  by Bhakti Ziek of Randolph Vermont.  She uses complicated/digital Jacquard weaving patterns.  (Jacquard tapestries from the 1700's contributed mightily to the development of punch-cards which would soon be used to control computer actions)  If you can get to her studio in Vermont, she does individual tutoring.

Next came a knit "shawl" by Katherine  Cobey.  The sculpture is titled "Portrait of Alzheimers."  As one reads the stitchery from left to right the pattern goes from complex and "error free" to simple and full of gaps, omissions and "mistakes."  Very evocative.  Ms. Cobey also teaches, exhibits all over the place and wrote a book called "Diagonal Knitting."

Two of my favorite pieces were knit by Adrienne Sloane.   With what was probably wry understatement, we were told that her work often has political content.  She either sent or offered to send this collar and bracelet to the White House for Michele Obama to wear at the inauguration.  I still hope to see it front and center one day.
There's still a chance to take a class from her this year at the Fuller Craft Museum, Dec 6 & 7!!
Only a portion of Warren Seelig's Stone Carpet/Shadow field was on display.  Apparently the entire piece would have also taken up most of the wall space.  It is made of steel and rock shards.  Again, Seelig has exhibited all over the place, uses unexpected materials to interact with each other and light. His website portfolio is worth looking at.

Sarah Haskell teaches, is involved in several non-profit communities,  AND does her own "art."  Which is much more of a challenge than you might think! The "floating" house is titled "Unhinged".  The tree is titled "Roots and Refuge."  Like many artists she makes series of similar pieces.  I share her interest in exploring what house or home represents.  I connected with what was said and what was left unsaid.
Some of Elizabeth Billings' pieces are slightly more conventional in technique, but not, I think, in sensibility. Sometimes she picks reeds, weeds and what not from the property around her and weaves it on a traditional looking loom with traditional warp and weft fibers.  I was touched by the blend of "refuse," craft, and fine threads which became so mysterious and beautiful together.

 Michele Ratté, is an inventive textile worker, printer and entrepreneur.  With colleagues who specialize in dyeing and printing, she developed a method for gilding fabric and printing with high metal-content elements.  High end design shops wanted her work so much that for a decade she had a business that worked with Barney's New York, Barney's Japan, Takashima, Neiman Marcus, etc etc. For the past 14 years she has devoted her time and talent to her own artistic vision, being invited to many diverse residency experiences and expositions.The lucite boxes and back-lighting made her work difficult to photograph with much justice to the sparkle and luminosity.

Jodi Colella's meandering construction, "Hive," seems fluid and organic even though it is made of wire mesh.  The mesh is fine enough, however, to look as though it might be tulle or bridal netting.  It probably won't surprise you that she often works in mixed media, crochet,  felt, encaustic or mere wisps of charcoal on paper.

The artist who scored the largest number of pieces (though not necessarily the most wall space! ) is Allison Cooke Brown. She combines traditional embroidery (cross stitch and laid work) with printed images of QR codes which link to various instructions on the best way to be a woman.
The image below includes a controversial quote from a Princeton guidance counselor advising that women should snag a husband while at Princeton because it will become much more difficult after they graduate. Even things that might be true can cause controversy.

She particularly enjoys musing about the many (and contradictory) instructions women have gotten through the years, while using "domestic arts" to heighten awareness. She did an entire ABC of QR instructions, primarily printed, but affixed to their cards with crochet and blanket stitch.
 A slew of letters written to her by her grandmother (giving unsolicited advice, for the most part) were incorporated into traditional  quilt hexagons in Grandma's Flower Garden.

At right is a thesaurus' worth of traits corresponding to woman, women or womanhood.  The artist has editorialized by cross stitching over the words she disagrees with. Even though the camera shook, I bet there are some inclusions AND exclusions you would disagree with.

These two Asian inspired bowls are very nice examples of thread painting.
I am not positive this is one of Nicholson's works.
Priscilla Nicholson's work seems to be something completely different!   Lighting and glass made them tricky to photograph.  The one on the left is titled "Family Portrait."   She started in landscape painting, then studied in Australia where she says the vast expanses of nature had a strong impact on her.  She is also interested in the politics of motherhood.
Transcending the Mundane

More Adrienne Sloane !  A knit cake and the missing piece,

as well as loopy cords made on a device like a child's knitting toy. She says she doesn't do "traditional" knitting any more, or hang out on Ravelry, or visit yarn shops.  She looks for non-traditional materials that she can sculpt and form with knitting techniques.

 This amazing shibori hand dyed and stitched piece is by Elin Noble.  Not surprisingly her forte is dyes and dying. Her book, Dyes & Paints: A Hands-On Guide to Coloring Fabric, won the 1999 Independent Publisher book award for the best “How-To Book”.  Her work has been reviewed in Fiberarts, and is on the cover of Fine Woodworking Design Book Six.  (She can dye wood, and reeds as well as fibers!)

 Sadly, I cannot match these two pieces with their creator.  The faux fur trimmed "thrown" has even faker fur made from brass nails.  Gazillions of them.

The gaucho shaped pants below are actually tufts of very stiff looking bristles (couldn't touch!!) embedded in a wooden form.  Talk about chaps!
They may be from Elizabeth Billings, but again... not sure.

And then there's Sallie Findlay who sculpts things out of "scallop bags"... whose usually ephemeral cotton sacks used by fisherman who collect scallops.  The "lady" on the left is titled Hottentata.  Below right is "Bird."  Kinda reminded me of Thanksgiving Turkey and how full I might feel (or look) by the weekend.

Melita Westerlund, a native of Finland, uses recycled denim jeans (among other things) to sculpt interesting pieces that cast terrific shadows! This big blue one is a meditation on chaos and the degradation of the great coral reefs.  She also makes wonderful colorful cast paper pieces, as well as steel and aluminum sculptures.

 These remind me of liturgical crosses from church.

 Samantha Fields had the genius idea to embroider on vinyl siding. She is adamant and unapologetic about recycling "plastic" siding and bedecking it with  really bright acrylic yarn!  The patch of siding was 8 feet wide!  She also collected crocheted afghans to hang behind bigger holes she cut in the panels.

 is represented by a series of dyed, embroidered, xeroxed, collaged faces called Becoming: Who I was, I am and Will Be.  It sounded to me like some of the dyes proved toxic and that Ms. Grey suffered as a result.  It is hard when what you love doing makes you sick. I wonder if I need more ventilation in the basement where I paint....

Wylie Sophia Garcia  of Burlington, Vt, created a month worth of dresses to which she added embellishments daily. She had photographs made of her wearing each of the dresses. The project was called The Dress That Makes The Woman.

More gold, silk, feathers and shadowy mazes by Michele Ratte.  I believe this piece was titled "Maze."

 Give Light by Michele Ratte

Come Triumphant Spirit by Michele Ratte.

 And now I'll go back to my VERY plain knitting!

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