Thursday, March 30, 2017

SDA's juried show "Shifting Landscapes," part 2

Last week I shared with you a look at the juried members' show of the Surface Design Association (SDA), currently on view at form & concept gallery in Santa Fe through May 20.  Today I'd like to pick up where I left off, with a look at three specific fiber media as represented by works in the show:  weaving, embroidery, and quilting.  Remember that the brief for the show is that the artwork needed to be made of fiber or using fiber techniques, or be inspired by textiles.  (Disclosures:  while I am a member of SDA, I did not enter this show.  And, for better or worse, all photographs are by me.)

As I shared last week, my favorite piece was Red Dirt Rug by Rena Detrixhe:

Red Dirt Rug, Rena Detrixhe.  earth, 96' x 72" x 5"
In her statement, the artist wrote:
The refining and sifting of the soil and the imprinting of the pattern is a meditation on this past, a gesture of sensitivity and a desire for understanding.  It is a meticulous and solitary act.  .. . The form of the rug, from a western perspective, is an object of luxury; it is a symbol of authority and power.  For the maker it is an expression of beauty and often cultural significance, the result of many hours of careful labor.  Through this form, I contemplate the tension between nature and human impact while suggesting the ubiquitousness and preciousness of the earth just below our feet. 
This reference to "meticulous and solitary. . . hours of careful labor" helped me to see that this piece, though it contains no fiber and uses no textile techniques at all, belongs in this show as a kind of conceptual weaving.  It's a fresh and thoughtful response to the function, history and traditional patterning of rugs.  It flips the exquisitely crafted luxury item and status symbol on its head.

A more traditional weaving spoke to a very specific place, the Litzmannstadt, or Lodz, ghetto in Poland during World War II.  From this site Jews from all over Europe were deported to concentration camps.  Wendy Weiss based her image on a photograph of a commemorative granite marker.  She effectively uses Jacquard weaving (I believe) to create a piece that evokes imprisonment.  For me the separate strips suggest a kind of fence, as does the diamond patterning. There is no taking comfort in the softness of this material.

Wendy Weiss, Litzmannstadt Getto, 1940-1944, weaving, 53" x 111"

detail, Wendy Weiss, Litzmannstadt Getto, 1940-1944, weaving, 53" x 111"

I liked this piece better the more I looked at it.  Each paper tag or label, all 638 of them, was colored with watercolor and ink.  Its connection to weaving and fiber is tenuous (though paper is technically a fiber), but in this case the grid format, the color, and the implied elements of labor over time made for me an interesting conceptual connection for me with weaving.  The connection to place is perhaps implied by the colors and the horizontal lines; the title suggests this is more of an internal landscape.

Jenna Lynch, Traveling Within, Feeling Through, Dreaming Beyond, The Lines
638 watercolor and ink drawings on paper, 56" x 33"

detail, Jenna Lynch, Traveling Within, Feeling Through, Dreaming Beyond, The Lines
638 watercolor and ink drawings on paper, 56" x 33"

In the field of embroidery, there was one piece that might be called "straight" or traditional.

Mandy Remmen, Blue Mountains, embroidery, 10" x 11.5" x 1.75"
At first glance, a familiar scene of hills under a blue sky, presented in a very traditional gilt frame, seemed almost quaint in the context of other, edgier work in the show.  But closer inspection shows a boldness and freedom to the stitching that belies the fussiness and prettiness of much conventional embroidery.  The frame begins to seem like a ironic comment on the subject and the medium.

detail, Mandy Remmen, Blue Mountains, embroidery, 10" x 11.5" x 1.75"

Quiltmaking is undoubtedly one of the most popular fiber art forms today.  Artists are exploring a myriad of surface design techniques and materials to move quilting far beyond its utilitarian origins. The quilts in this show represented several current trends in the art quilt world:  embellishment, improvisational piecing, and rust-dyeing.  

Melody Money, Sky Prayers, Memories of Sky, mixed-media textile, 59" x 41"
detail, Melody Money, Sky Prayers, Memories of Sky, mixed-media textile, 59" x 41"
The artist does convey a sense of  a magical, sacred Eastern landscape in this piece.  The quilting is exquisite.  While technically impressive, this piece seems a bit overworked and over-embellished to me.

Improvisational piecing and the use of ragged scraps have been popular for a few decades now, thanks to artists like the Gee's Bend quilters, Nancy Crow, and countless others.  Hand-stitching is also making a comeback, and all of this is evident in this piece:

Patricia Kennedy-Zafred, A Dying Breed, fiber, art quilt, 44" x 44"
Regina Benson took an interesting approach to the quilt format, slicing the rectangle into three shards and mounting them as a relief on the wall.

Regina Benson, V Restored Legacy, fiber, 42" x 46" x 3"
detail, Regina Benson, V Restored Legacy, fiber, 42" x 46" x 3"
I wonder if the title is a reference to the old iron tools, perhaps, that had been used to rust-dye the fabric. There is a sense of industrial decay, of a whole that has come apart here (a twist on the pieced quilt that makes a whole from fragments), that could be a comment on the future of our natural world.

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading!  Obviously my opinions are simply my own responses.  You would likely respond differently to this work, and that is as it should be.  Please share your comments below.  Let's engage in the critical conversation our fiber medium needs.

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