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Summer 2002  


New Forms in Fiber

Carol Shinn, Conversation, 2001; embroidery; 22 by 23.5 inches.

"New Forms in Fiber," at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 23 to November 24, spotlighted new pieces by 51 artists working in embroidery, weaving, quilts, crochet, and basketry. Although any exhibition aspiring to survey the field can only scratch the surface, this impressive gathering hinted at the vision and accomplishment of studio fiber from around the country.

Art quilts were perhaps the least represented medium, but masterful new works by Michael James (Scan) and Nancy Crow (Construction 42) showed these established artists exploring the subtle effects of variegated hand dyed fabrics. Donna Marder's Double Solitaire--an assemblage of playing cards--provided a neat counterpoint to the painterly James and Crow quilts. Marder's use of assembled panels in regular repeats and her extensive overstitching evoke the quilt, but by eschewing fabric and leaving an open network of thread between panels, she stretches the definition of the medium.

Mobilia has a history of representing embroiderers, and this exhibition featured accomplished work by several artists, including Renie Breskin Adams (Call of the Wild) and Mary Bero, who contributed Stuffed Head: Peace, a portrait head backed with stuffing to create a three-dimensional effect. Rosita Johanson's Under the Midnight Sun--a scene similar to her samplerlike embroideries--was executed in pointillist detail as punch-hook tapestry.

The exhibition's tour de force in representational art, however, was Carol Shinn's machine-embroidered Conversation, a large panel (22 by 23.5 inches) of two junkyard vehicles facing each other in a diagonal, vanishing point-perspective composition. Her control of shadow and shading gives the piece the presence of a Chuck Close photorealist painting.

Donna Rhae Marder, Double Solitaire (detail), 2001; playing cards, paper, thread; machine stitched; 46.25 by 38.5 inches. Photo courtesy of Mobilia Gallery.



















Among the woven textiles, three pieces demonstrated different approaches to expanding the visual vocabulary of art on the loom. Lia Cook employed the computational muscle of computer-programmed weaving in Unmask Youth, embedded with the shadow image of a child's face [see pages 47-48 for a piece from the same series]. In Laura Foster Nicholson's woven wool with cotton brocade Pebbles, the foreground and background are in constant flux, creating a rippling effect like a shallow stream running over a bed of stones. By contrast, Adela Akers' Incline employs a strict geometry, enhanced by metal strips arranged in stairlike progressions. The abstract composition is rooted in the tactile universe because it is pierced with long strands of horsehair--the "real" world literally puncturing the artistic construct.

In the basket-weaving tradition, Amy Lipshie's sculptures, plaited of cardboard from cereal boxes, bring a childish delight to constructed forms. Elizabeth Whyte Schulte's Drew employs a similar embrace of color with painted raffia. Her tall, narrow vessels are distinguished by finely bundled pine needles that obliquely reference Native American basketry. Merrill Morrison's Fruit Loops, in which knotted linen is coiled in a traditional vase form, then girdled with colored strands of beads, is a small wonder, as contemplative as an ancient oil amphora.

Rosita Johanson, Under the Midnight Sun, 1999; needle punching; 17.25 by 15.75 inches.














Laura Foster Nicholson, Pebbles, 1998; woven wool with cotton brocade; 32 by 30 inches. Nicholson's work was featured in the summer '01 issue of FIBERARTS.
















Jill Nordfors Clark chose to create an airier structure, giving equal emphasis to absence and presence. Her Remembering is a remarkably delicate sculpture of forsythia twigs netted in a tall, rectangular vessel with hog gut and cotton hread. The juxtaposition of abstract form with sensual, seemingly transitory materials creates a powerful aesthetic of loss.

--Patricia Harris and David Lyon

Critics and writers Patricia Harris and David Lyon are based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Merrill Morrison, Fruit Loops, 2000; knotted waxed linen, glass beads; 5.5 inches high, 3.5 inches in diameter. Photo: David Peters.
















Fruit Loops (detail)















Elizabeth Whyte Schulze, Drew, 2001; pine needles, raffia, paint; 36 by 8 by 13 inches. Photo courtesy of Mobilia Gallery.


















Amy Lipshie, Jewel Drop; plaited recycled cardboard, beads, wire; 35 by 14 inches.




















Jill Nordfors Clark, Remembering, 2001; needle lace, hog gut, forsythia twigs, cotton thread; 25.5 by 6 by 6 inches. Photo: Kevin McGowan.


Jill Nordfors Clark, Remembering (detail)

This review first appeared in:

Summer 2002


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