Every other year northeast Ohio is treated to aFocus: Fiber show, co-sponsored by the Textile Arts Alliance (TAA) and the Kent State University Museum. Since 2019 is an “on” year, I joined other art quilters on a tour of the museum’s latest show.
As always, the word fiber encompasses a wide array of materials, as the photos below show. Before I forget, let me mention the artists’ reception for the show will be next Thursday, March 21, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the museum.
The works above are made of conventional materials – yarn, thread, cloth, wire. Others in the show venture further afield to electric cords and metal. As always with unconventional materials, I’m left wondering if a work was chosen for its differentness or its artistic merit. You can judge for yourself if you catch this exhibit, which is up until July 28, 2019.
While I use textiles mostly in fiber art, I love seeing how other people use textiles in garments. Recently I had the chance to ooh and ah at fashions from bygone eras at the Kent State University museum. That museum, which focuses on fashion and textiles, is showing exhibits of 1940s and 1980s fashions. As an unexpected bonus, I also enjoyed an exhibit on southern African fashion.
The 1940s exhibit covered all sorts of clothing: military, nursing, and scouting uniforms; bathing suits; undergarments; women’s day wear; accessories; and gorgeous ball gowns and wedding dresses. Designers represented include Dior, Adrian, Hattie Carnegie, Sophie Gimbel, Charles James, Claire McCardell, and Valentina. I spent some time admiring the period shoes, gloves, and hats. I have dim memories of my mother’s glove collection, and know that everyone wore hats in that era thanks to the movies. Here’s my choice for knockout dress. It’s cunningly engineered, and is by Charles James.
The 1980s exhibit included lots of evening wear, with a few day wear pieces intermingled. Yes, there were big shoulders and some very “Dallas” pieces, but many have stood the test of time well. The big find for me in this exhibit was the work of Zandra Rhodes, a British designer very popular in the 1970s and 1980s. I was spoiled for choice, but here are my top picks.
As I said, the southern African fashion exhibit was a surprise bonus. The Namibian and South African designers blend textiles associated with Africa with western style textiles to create a unique style. A few pieces were quite beige, but most channeled the colors in a roll of Life Savers.
I’m lucky to live an easy drive from the Kent State University Museum. Since the museum is allied with the university’s fashion school almost all the exhibits involve fiber of some sort, especially clothing.
I did see two lovely clothing exhibits on my last visit – 1920s fashions and the wrong sides of garments – but I want to talk about the Textile Art Alliance’s juried exhibit called Focus: Fiber 2016.
The show encompassed pieces made by weaving, basketry, felting, and quilting; all meant as works of art rather than functional pieces. It was fun to get into the 3D possibilities of fiber, as most quilts exist only in two dimensions. Here are two overall shots of the exhibit. In the first, the large sculpture is by Betty Busby, as is the egg shaped hanging piece just to its right.
I had a good time figuring out how this woven tapestry piece was constructed.
Here’s another woven piece that caught my eye. It’s kind of traditional, but I like how the weaver made a border around it.
Amy Meissner had two pieces in the show. Both incorporated old linens and hand embroidery in a way that doesn’t look hokey. You can read her descriptions of these pieces on her blog.
Finally, here’s a work by Maria Shell that’s traditional at first glance, but cut without a ruler.
Since photography wasn’t allowed at the exhibit, I’ve scrounged images from the internet. There were many other works I spent time examining, but I couldn’t find images of them.
It was such a pleasure to see work by artists who are masters of their techniques. Too often felted and woven items can come across as earnestly homemade and lumpy.
As with many textile/fiber exhibitions, the photos really don’t do justice to the works. A few photos from the tapestry show are on the American Tapestry Alliance’s website, though my favorites don’t seem to be available online.
Lialia Kuchma “BluRose”
Christine Rivers “North Coast Reflections”
One highlight for me was a birch forest installation of slender 10 foot tall tapestry woven columns set at angles to each other. I felt I was in a forest as I walked around this piece. The artist had woven a carved heart into one of the trees. Another wonderful piece of a rabbit and its shadow was done in slit tapestry weaving. This difficult technique was executed beautifully. I wanted to put a light behind it to see what effect that would give.
The Entangled show was put together for the museum and showed off garments made of nuno felt. According to Wikipedia, the nuno felting “technique bonds loose fibre, usually wool, into a sheer fabric such as silk gauze, creating a lightweight felt. The fibres can completely cover the background fabric, or they may be used as a decorative design that allows the backing fabric to show.”
These pictures are from the exhibit’s catalog.
These garments looked wonderfully soft and airy. Many of the dresses would have been perfect for the 1920s. I just wish the catalog had gotten the artists to talk more about the hows and whys of creation, rather than recording the often pretentious (to me) artists’ statements. Example: “…this vest is inspired by the movement of our lives like water…like rivers, like friendships, like sisters by choice.” But I guess that’s one of the differences between craft and art.