25 November 2014

Game Changers - Fiber Art at the Fuller Craft Museum

Warrior of Light in the Blue Night, Maximo Laura, 2010.

On November 23, DH and I drove to Brockton, Massachusetts, to view Game Changers: Fiber Art Masters and Innovators at the Fuller Craft Museum.  The invitational exhibit, on view from July 5, 2014, to November 23, 2014, featured fifty-four works by artists both veterans of, and relatively new to, the museum world.

Exhibit entrance.

Fiber is broadly interpreted, encompassing traditional materials such as wool and cotton fibers, but also substances which might be considered a bit off the beaten path of the textile landscape, such as glass tube segments, grapefruit peels, stone, and substrates such as paper.  Paper is itself made of fibers pulped and bonded, so in that sense it is fiber-related, but then one could posit that any painting on woven canvas is also fiber-related.  Some works feature no filament or fiber at all; these outliers seem to function as orbiting markers for the limits of the ever-expanding textile universe.  Exhibits that promote boundary busting necessarily elicit questions on inclusion and scope.

Another view of the exhibit.

The thesis seems to be that expanding the definition of fiber to include almost any and all material somehow strengthens the dissolution of the old established stratification of some types of art, and certain materials, as superior to others.  We are presented with another upheaval of the old strata of Western Art, with a capital "A", where three-dimensional sculpture ruled at the top of the ladder, followed by two-dimensional painting, then prints, and, down in the lowlands, the world of "craft" - textiles, ceramics, etc., or anything tied to a functional past.

That hierarchy is pretty well demolished by now, although it wasn't when some of the artists, such as the late Ed Rossbach and Dorothy Gill Barnes, in this show began their careers. A bit more chronological context might have helped this exhibit become more of a narrative in addition to a survey.

Mulberry Dentroglyph, Dorothy Gill Barnes, 1997.

#31, Pamela Studstill, 1984.

Pamela Studstill was one of the first art quilters to hand-dye and paint her own fabric, and to compose the quilt as a field, often featuring color gradation, rather than a grid of repeated, identical blocks.

Nameless Woman - Blue Durumagi. Chunghie Lee, 2010.

A more recent work involving stitched fabric is the durumagi  (a kind of formal robe worn over other clothing) by Chunghie Lee, above, executed in the bojagi piecing technique, a Korean tradition.  Like the quilt above, this textile is descended from a functional ancestor in both form and technique but has long shed its utilitarian heritage.  Does only non-functional fiber art qualify as innovative work?

There was some exciting embroidery, including the portrait below, by Mary Bero, in which the directional stitching and strong color create an animated personality.  This, and the other figurative works in the show, seemed very fresh and even provocative, perhaps more so than the abstract works.  In one of the few works with any political content, Adrienne Sloane's figures of knitted wire are literally caught in red tape [or wire] in a piece that suggests the tension between individuals and institutions.

Changing Season, Mary Bero, 2013 - 2014.


Truth to Power, Adrienne Sloane, 2007.

Speaking of narrative, Carol Eckert uses wire and cotton to illustrate a Chinese myth in her work below - I wish she would illustrate a book.

Even without the story, the assemblage works as a tale of life and death in the natural world, but I always like a good myth, so here it is: 

In Chinese mythology, the God of the Eastern Heaven, Dijun, had ten children, called sun-birds, who together took turns as the earthly sun. Each day one of the sun-birds would leave its nest in a carriage and rotate around the earth, providing light and warmth for the planet. However, the sun-birds became tired of the routine and began performing their circuit in the sky all at once. The heat and light provided by ten sun-birds at once was too much and the earth began to scorch and the people to suffer.

Houyi, the God of Archery, was sent by Dijun to correct the children's behavior and Houyi shot down the birds, one by one. After the ninth bird was killed, Emperor Yao pleaded with Houyi to spare the final sun-bird, as without any sun at all the earth would languish in total darkness. Houyi agreed, and we have one sun now, which rises and sets each day.

Time of the Ten Suns, Carol Eckert, 2013.

Time of the Ten Suns, detail.

5 Temari-Sashiko Spheres, Lucy Arai, 2014.

Of course, as a sashiko practitioner myself,  I was tickled to see this hand-sewing on Lucy Arai's ethereal hollow temari globes, a technical tour-de-force combining thread, washi paper, sumi ink, indigo pigment, gold and acrylic.  The contrast of the humble sashiko - simple running stitches -  and the precious materials celebrates the impact of that most basic building block, the stitch.

5 Temari-Sashiko Spheres, detail.

Artist Anastasia Azure also created a technical masterpiece, below, woven flat using silver, copper, brass wire and nylon filament in a double weave technique. Opened to reveal the layers, and with a jewelled center, it is truly fit for royalty.   Delicate - after all, it's mostly wire and air -  the piece employs symmetry, the reflective qualities of the metallic materials,  as well as its three-foot diameter size, for impact.


Landau for the Maharaja, Anastasia Azure, 2009.

Landau for the Maharaja, detail.

03 November 2014

Rising Star Guild quilt show

Sunset at the Lake, Nancy Howard.

When looking at the quilt above, by Nancy Howard, I felt I was saying good-bye to summer itself. Nancy's wonderful quilt was displayed in the annual show of the Rising Star Guild, held on October 24 and 25, at St. Brigid's Church, Lexington, Massachusetts.  As always, the variety and breadth of designs, as well as the exquisite workmanship, made this an enjoyable show; a few of my personal favorites are shown below. (Click on any image to enlarge it.)

Quilts on display.

Some quilts demonstrated that relatively easy-to-construct patterns can have a big impact....

Hip to Be Square, Penny Sander.

Beautiful machine quilting by Laurena McDermott.

Other quilts display meticulously pieced points, such as the delight below, in red, white and black.

Kaleidoscopic Illusions, Kathleen McCormick.

The modern quilt movement was well-represented too.  What are the features of a "modern quilt"?  Lots of neutral-colored negative space, geometric prints, great machine quilting and undiluted colors.

Dots in the Park, Christina Crouch.

Dots in the Park, detail.

Flowers Grow in the Cracks in the Pavement, Ginny Leonardas.

The pattern in the quilt above is a modern riff on the traditional Grandmother's Flower Garden; although it's hard to see in my image, the off-white background fabric has a pattern of urban buildings and streets, so Grandma has moved to a cool pad in the city. Good for her!

While many quilts in the show feature traditional patterns, or contemporary versions thereof, some of the quilts are unique statements, such as the quilt below, by Atara Halpern.  Made for her daughter who, according to the show notes, requested something urban and industrial, the quilt has computer parts incorporated into the design, as well as buttons and other found objects.

Homage to the Machine, Atara Halpern.

Homage to the Machine, detail.

Another unique quilt appears below; Stephanie Shore printed her own photographs of roses onto fabric to create this homage to the blooms of summer. Petal and leaf detail are created with expertly contoured machine quilting. Do I detect hints of spice and clove?

Fenway Rose Garden, Stephanie Shore.

From portraits of roses to a portrait of man's best friend. Artist Penny Sander pinned over one thousand small pieces of variously-colored batik fabrics to a backer fabric, then stitched them all down in this example of raw-edge applique.

Maggie Mae, Penny Sander.
Maggie Mae, detail.

I always admire hand-embroidery, as featured in the narrative quilt below. The neutral colorway also keeps this design from attempting to portray snow and sky too literally - the subtlety allows us to complete the wintry setting in our imaginations.  Pieced and embroidered by Jo-Anne Granger, the quilt was machine-quilted by Lynn Irish.

Over the River and Through the Woods, overview and details. Jo-Anne Granger.

As do many guilds, Rising Star set some challenges for its members. A quilt challenge is usually presented as a theme, with dimensional limitations. The small quilts are displayed as  group and it is fascinating to view the variations on the theme.  I noticed two sets of challenge quilts - "transportation" was one theme; "sun" formed the other challenge. Two of the transportation-themed quilt are shown below.  Massachusetts residents will recognize the view of the Longfellow Bridge in the image immediately below.

1 if by Land and 2 if by Sea...and 1 in the Air, Sue Collozzi.

En Velo Rouge, Carol Miller.

As for the "sun" challenge, with the return of Standard Time, and 4:00 pm twilight, we need all the sun we can get.

Left: Andean Sun, Linda Whitehead. Right, Self-Portrait, Nancy Wasserman.

Fortunately, as natural light diminishes until the winter solstice, we compensate with festive lighting, including illuminated fancy dress for our normally staid evergreens.  It's fun to see quilts which celebrate holiday decorating with sparkle and shine. 

Holiday Trees, Becky Toland.

Holiday Trees,  detail.

17 October 2014

Lego Americana Roadshow at the Natick Mall

Our nation's capitol.

While shopping at the Natick Mall, DH and I ran into something completely unexpected: the Lego Americana Roadshow.  For a short period of time, October 19 through November 2, rather amazing models of historic buildings and structures made with Lego bricks are on display.   So, if you are a Lego fan, don't delay. Stop by the Lego play area on the Lower Level Infinity Pool Court and pick up a map so you don't miss any of the creations.

I'll let the images speak for themselves.  (On view but not shown: Jefferson Memorial. Not a political statement; just didn't get a good shot.)

Capitol model from above.

Lego play area, on the upper level.


Play area.

Supreme Court.


Supreme Court from above.


White House.

Statue of Liberty.

Independence Hall.


Old North Church, bathed in sunlight.

Old North Church, detail.

Right, Lincoln Memorial, detail. Left, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.


Farms, fabric and cheese - a day in Vermont


Taylor Farm, Londonderry, Vermont.

Over Columbus Day week-end, in mid-October, DH and I went in search of cheese.  Yes, I know this is supposed to be a blog about textiles, but cloth will make an appearance, never fear, and we need fuel to energize our textile treks, don't we?

While the Vermont Cheese Trail has 45 participating members, we had only one Saturday, so restricted ourselves to the Manchester area, in southern Vermont. After our 3-hour drive from the Boston area, we were ready for lunch, brunch or anything on a plate. Fortunately for us, a familiar breakfast favorite was still open. Upstairs we went, to join the queue for a seat at Up for Breakfast. After 15 minutes or so, during which a friendly waitress offered us coffee, we climbed onto seats at the counter, with a view of the kitchen, a compact area where people engaged in cooking, serving and cleaning-up maneuver in an enthralling kind of culinary choreography. 

Favorite spot for pancakes.

With the advent of the railroad in the 19th century, Manchester became a resort area for affluent New Yorkers.  With the rise of skiing, tourists journeyed north to enjoy winter recreation at nearby Stratton and Bromley mountains. Summer, as well as spring - also known as "mud season" - could be a difficult time for local businesses, so Manchester re-invented itself yet again as an outlet shopping magnet.  It's a New England variant of the outlet mall, though - shoppers remain outdoors, walking to and from free-standing shops with outdoor parking.   No Muzak, no parking garage hassles.  As an alternative to designer fashion acquisition, there is also a very good independent book store, Northshire Bookstore, and of course the mother ship of the Orvis chain is located here.

Relatively new to the line-up of retail is a Marimekko outlet, and this was my special destination.  I scored yardage at a good price, particularly since the fabrics come in the home decorating standard width of 54," not the apparel/quilt fabric width of 44"-45." I find the weight of the fabric perfectly fine for both piecing and hand or machine quilting. It frustrates me that sometimes women short-change themselves and their work by using inferior materials. When we use our time to make things, our efforts merit quality materials.

Lower right, salesperson in colorful Marimekko leggings and top.


Fabric by a favorite designer, Fujiwo Ishimoto.


Batten Kill River, Manchester center.

Another highlight of Manchester is Hildene, the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, who made his fortune as Chairman of the Pullman Company, which manufactured railroad cars during the heyday of rail transport.  Hildene, with its house, gardens and cheese-making operation, deserves a day all on its own, but we only had time to dash into the visitor's center and buy some of the delicious goat milk cheese. The Rowland Agricultural Center at Hildene, where the cheeses are crafted, pasteurizes its cheese, unlike most of the farmsteads on the cheese tour which sell raw milk products.  While Vermont has very stringent dairy inspections, pasteurization is still recommended for cheese-loving mothers-to-be or nursing moms.

From Hildene, we drove to another stop on the cheese trail, Taylor Farm. This is a real old-fashioned family farm, with mixed livestock including dairy cows, chickens, goats and turkeys. While the ultimate fate of animals like pigs and turkeys is never in question, during their lives they enjoy fresh air, sunshine and the sights and smells of pasture and field.

In addition to its own delicious gouda varieties, Taylor Farm also sells cheese from Plymouth Artisan Cheese and Crowley Cheese, a boon for us as we didn't have time to visit these facilities during our day trip but could still add to our cheese stash. We didn't sample the ice cream, but it looked awfully good.

Sights at Taylor Farm.

On Route 30, while driving back to Boston along the pretty Winhall River, we stopped at a safe pull-off spot to admire the many mini-cairns folks had constructed from river stones.  With the first big blizzard - Vermonters know better than anyone in Westeros that "Winter is Coming" - most of these rock piles will return once more to the river.  An ephemeral art installation, built by many contributors, the landscape of gathered and stacked stone is delightful. 

Stone cairns.

Busy artisan almost was left behind by impatient companions.

Last look.
More information about the Vermont Cheese Trail in Southern Vermont can be found at this article from the Boston Globe newspaper: http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2014/05/31/walk-this-whey-vermont-cheese-trail-has-much-see/aUisiz0toLgrPmZiX5zerI/story.html