Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Small Expressions 2018: Juried Small Format Fiber

While attending Convergence in Reno I had the chance to view HGA's annial juried exhibit of small format work called Small Expressions.   (Last week I wrote about the American Tapestry Alliance's unjuried small format show limited to tapestry; this is a different exhibit.)  Work could not exceed 15" in any dimension, and had to use one or more fiber techniques.  Virginia Vogel juried the show this year and as in the past, works that broke with conventional fiber practice were prominent.  Pieces by 28 artists from all over the world were selected.  (While I have been selected for this show in the past, I did not enter this year.)

The exhibit was on view in the Wilbur D. May Museum and beautifully displayed in a white gallery of just the right, intimate size for such a show.  I found myself drawn, especially in retrospect, to the works which departed from the expected and which had relief or three-dimensional aspects.

This piece, Reflection, by Rebecca L. Smith won First Place.  Rebecca makes the wedge weave technique her own by incorporating seed beads and by using wire to shape the piece into a relief at least an inch deep.

Rebecca L. Smith, Reflection, 12" x 12".  wool, other fibers, seed beads, wire

Rebecca L. Smith, detail Reflection

While this piece by Jenny Schu entitled Leaf Me Alone 1 also incorporates seed beads, I was captivated by the expert weaving of text in different fonts, even backwards text.

Jennifer Schu, Leaf Me Alone 1, 10" x 15", hand-dyed rayon, glass seed beads
Jennifer Schu, detail  Leaf Me Alone 1
(Apologies that the color in the detail shot is off; the first photo is more accurate.)

This piece called text and manuscripts to mind in an abstract way.  It's Silences, #4 by Julie Lambert, woven of paper thread.  I love the simple elegance of this work, the way in which the materials and technique carry the entire weight of the design and concept.  It's beautifully displayed, but I wish I could tell whether it is bound in the center like a book or is a scroll.

Julie Lambert, Silences, #4, 15" x 4", paper thread

Julie Lambert, detail Silences, #4,

I was fascinated to study Deanna Deeds' piece Dialogue, woven of cotton and nylon filament, trying to figure out how it was done.  It seems to me to be an investigation into the very nature and structure of weaving.

Deanna Deeds, Dialogue, 15" x 15", cotton, nylon filament
Deanna Deeds, detail  Dialogue

As I write this I'm noticing I--and perhaps the juror--have a bias toward relief and 3D work.  In her tapestry Abstract Earth, Penny Collins expertly handles shading so that there is a teasing, now-you-see-it, now-you-don't illusion of depth when one steps back.  What seems to be a flat surface hints at topographical relief.

Penny Collins, Abstract Earth, 13" x 13", wool, cotton

Penny Collins, detail, Abstract Earth
Finally, two fully three-dimensional pieces showed that fiber can be every bit as sculptural as other, sturdier materials.  In this piece of crumpled handwoven fabric Jessica Pinsky has frozen a momentary gesture--of frustration?  Weaving can do that to a person!

Jessica Pinsky, Anxiety Series 1, 11" x 8", silk warp, cotton weft, resin

Jessica Pinsky, detail Anxiety Series 1
Aviva Peres,  Double Reason to Celebrate,
8" x 8", vintage cotton, vegetal stiffener, wire thread

Aviva Peres,  Double Reason to Celebrate
This piece truly does feel like a celebration, with its coils and tendrils exploding in all directions.  I love how it looks so different from different angles.  There are continuing surprises and discoveries for the eye to make.

Wherever you are this summer, I hope you have the chance to take in some exciting art! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The BIGGEST Little Tapestries in the World: ATA's small format unjuried exhibit in Reno, NV

One of the many pleasures I've had while attending HGA's Convergence and ATA's annual meeting and retreat in Reno this past week has been viewing this show of over 200 tapestries measuring under 10" square. I'm going to share with you a few of my favorite pieces from the show, but you can enjoy them all at your leisure by ordering a catalog from ATA HERE.

For a couple of decades now, the small format unjuried show has been a great chance for weavers from all over the world and of all levels of experience to show their work.  I did not enter a piece this year.  But visiting the exhibit offered an instructive look at the challenges and rewards of working at a small scale.  Of course opinions on what constitutes a successful work of tapestry art vary widely; we all have differing tastes.  When I catch myself looking at tapestry lately, I'm noticing I gravitate toward pieces with graphic simplicity, a limited palette, or an uncomplicated composition.

Here are a few where a limited palette made a strong statement to my eyes.

Distance, Janet Austin

Blue, by Rebecca Mezoff
Fold, Maggie Edwards

10 x 10, Ann LeRoyer
Yellow and Gray, Mike Wallace
The Meeting of Shadows, Laura Hodgdon
My students know I like to preach about how value is more important than color; you can see in the pieces that are mostly in grayscale how true that is.  With effective light-dark contrast you almost don't need color!  When there is color, its proportion and amount are carefully calibrated for maximum impact.  Of course all these pieces also owe their effectiveness to strong composition and excellent technique.  I want to turn now to the tapestries whose bold, simple compositions make an impact.

Afloat, Martha May

Center of the Sun, Sarah Warren
Reignited, Julia Rapinoe
Vision of Yew, Jean Clark
Rhythm and Blues, Mary McMahon
Try an Angle, Deb Shoenberger
One of the things I especially love about this group is that in many of them, the weaving techniques and format create the image.  Wedge weave, eccentric weave, a triangular shape, an adaptation of traditional Navajo design,  are not arbitrary choices superimposed on an image but are integral to the overall image.  This is an "aha" moment I will carry back to my studio, something I will continue to strive for in my own work.

Stay tuned for more from the exhibits and classes at Convergence and ATA!