Monday, February 6, 2017

Details, details. . . from American Tapestry Biennial 11

I had the immense pleasure of attending the opening reception and artists' talks for the American Tapestry Biennial 11 at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles last Sunday.  I had purchased the catalog months ago, but when the chance arose to see the show in person, I jumped at it. I am SO glad I did.

I was blown away by the impact of seeing the work in person.  No printed reproduction can come close to conveying the texture, scale, technical detail and color of the original fiber piece.  We--I, at least--see so much art on the printed page or online, that it's easy to lose sight of how essential those tangible, physical aspects are to our experience of the work.

So most of the photos I took were actually detail shots of pieces, notes I was taking for myself about techniques, textures, and so on that I wanted to remember.  I was also paying close attention to artists' use of color, since I'm going to teach a class this Sunday, 2/12/17, called More Color! at SEFAA, here in Atlanta.  (It's not too late to register, but act fast).

Suzanne Paquette, Cordes Sensibles, 60" x 36"
Back to the Tapestry Biennia. . . I loved the way the light areas in this piece, especially in the lower left, just glowed.  It's not an area of solid white or ecru but a subtle blend of many colors blending and separating that makes it so effective, I think.

detail, Suzanne Paquette, Cordes Sensibles
Like many of us I'm instinctively drawn to saturated color.  When I stepped in closer to look at this piece with its strong red, I was surprised to find high relief elements.

Rowen Schussheim-Anderson, Crimson Prelude, 52" x 48" x 3.   
This photo by Ogy Blazevich is from the catalog so the colors are different from my detail shot below. 

detail, Rowen Schussheim-Anderson, Crimson Prelude
 There are actually separate woven sections attached to the surface!  Like a collage!  And fuzzy areas at the bottom left corner.  Lots of intriguing play with the conventional flat surface of tapestry.

detail, Rowen Schussheim-Anderson, Crimson Prelude

No account of this show can omit this piece.  Its fine grain, large size, detailed imagery, subtle color and eye-catching subject held everyone's attention.

Gabriele Cristu, Romania, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, 59" x 75".
Photo by Daniel Gora from the ATB11 catalog. 
The color gradations are so subtle and the scale so fine that at the opening I was actually called upon by a small group of non-weaving viewers to explain how this was NOT a painting on cloth but actually was woven.  I did my best but one of them remained highly skeptical.  You can see in the detail below why it might be confusing.

detail, Gabriele Cristu, Romania, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Finally I want to share a piece from another exhibit on view at the museum, a show by Tapestry Weavers West entitled Elemental Tapestry:  Earth, Air, Fire and Water.  This piece caught my attention because of its subject--I am a sucker for hiking anywhere but especially among redwoods--but also for its unexpected color palette.

Ama Wertz, Ghost in Redwood Grove, 29" x 37"
Instead of using greens and other colors of the forest, Ama chose to use subjective color, color that conveys emotion rather than imitating reality.  She also used naturally dyed wool from the area depicted in the piece, its "fibershed," which as she says "stamps the time and place a work was made directly into its structure and design."  The value contrasts and the design itself carry the piece without saturated color.

There are so many more pieces that I loved and could go on and on about. . . but that would make this post too long.  As as Rebecca Mezoff mentions in her post about the show, these are just a few of the pieces that just happened to grab me this time.  All of the work was excellent.

If you want to see more, check out Rebecca Mezoff's blog post and video walk-through of the exhibit. Rebecca has done a fantastic job showing every piece and describing the wonderful artists' panel. She also has some shots of the 40-year retrospective of fiber legend Lia Cook's work also on view at the San Jose museum.  You will not be disappointed.  And if you want to learn more about how to use color in your own work, please sign up for More Color! next Sunday, 2/12, from 1-4 at SEFAA.