“Formal Argument” By Diane Savona
FiberPhiladelphia 2012’s exhibitions, “Outside/Inside the Box” and “Distinguished Educators” absolutely knocked my mass-produced snowflake printed socks off. I saw the exhibitions on Friday and I’m still thinking about all of the beautiful and thought provoking pieces of artwork, because they touched me to my core. I agree with Amy Orr’s statement that “Fiber speaks to people on such an immediate and innate level.” Fibers/textiles represent such a huge part of our history, culture, and civilization and remind us of where we came from and who we are today. We also come into contact with fibers/textiles during every part of our daily lives. So despite the fact that much of the work that I saw was innovative and unique, I always felt a comforting sense of familiarity when I deconstructed each piece of artwork down to its material, function, or statement. That sense of familiarity made me leave the Crane Arts Building with the same warm and fuzzy feeling that I get after I’ve had an engaging conversation with a group of friends.
The “Distinguished Educators” and the “Outside/Inside the Box” exhibitions were meant to set up the whole framework for FiberPhiladelphia 2012. The exhibitions both honor the rich history of fibers/textiles and break the confines of what is and isn’t considered fiber/textile art. The “Distinguished Educators” exhibition in the Grey Area features the work of thirteen distinguished fiber/textile educators from institutions across the country that have influenced the field with their artwork and teachings. The “Outside/Inside the Box” exhibition in the Icebox Project Space was blind judged by three top notch jurors: Elisabeth Agro, the Associate Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts for the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Independent Curator, Bruce Hoffman; and Judith Weisman, the Designer and Curator for the Acquisitions Chair of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery Support Group. Over five hundred artists from all over the world applied and submitted several pieces of artwork. Only about seventy-two pieces of artwork made the cut.
The artwork in the “Outside/Inside the Box” vary greatly in scale, material, technique, and subject matter. This was a very intentional and well thought out choice by the jurors. There radically were not any perimeters set on scale or material, because the show wanted to stretch the definition of fibers/textiles and make it more identifiable to a larger range of people. The actual submission instructions for this juried exhibitions are as follows:
“Outside/Inside the Box will showcase innovative fiber/textile art that transcends disciplines; combines tradition with cutting edge technology and/or historic concepts with contemporary perspective. Size, scope, materials and subject matter are open. Submissions may include surface design, woven, 2D and 3D structures, quilts, stitching, body art, etc.”
Bruce Hoffman, one of the jurors for the “Outside/Inside the Box,” gave a really compelling speech about why the jurors made a conscious decision to stretch the bounds and discusses the reasons why fiber/textiles arts has become such a mixed medium:
“The fascinating thing about textile and fiber art within the decorative art world is that if you are a ceramic artist, you have to work with clay. If you are a glass artist, you have to somehow function with glass. If you are a painter, you need to work with a material that is liquid or that can be from one surface to another. If you are a fiber or textile artist, it envelops the process and the material. So if you stack something or pile something — piling is a traditional idea of making textiles — you can actually weave… metal. There is a piece in the other room [The Grey Area] by Warren Seelig that is made out of metal and rock. He is actually weaving the shadows, so it’s a conceptual idea of looking at the secondary element of the material and its relationship to textiles. This is what allows for such a large broad scope and the reason why critics have had fifty or so years of disputing whether it falls in the high side or the low side of the art world. And within that context, especially in the Sixties and Seventies — when many Feminist artists were working with textiles and using them to explore sexuality and political issues — critics put it on the low side of art world, because it related to Feminism and functionality in women’s work. And many men like Robert Morris — and some women who made it to the other side — that were working with textiles and didn’t use the material as their first statement were put on this side of the fence. And women like Sheila Hicks and Lenore Tawney, who came from traditions of Eastern Europe and European ideas of traditional textiles, the critics said that it was decorative art and not high art. So it’s a very interesting thing that’s been explored for the last 60 years, and that is one of the reasons why we wanted to present this exhibition on such a broad scope.”
I have hand picked some of my favorite pieces of artwork from the two exhibitions. Please scroll down to get a preview of what you can expect when you attend these two stellar shows. If you would like to learn more about FiberPhiladelphia, please also read my article: FiberPhiladelphia 2012 Opening Night with Amy Orr and Bruce Hoffman.
“DISTINGUISHED EDUCATORS” EXHIBITION
“Woosh” By Gerhardt Knodel
“Woosh” is a fun interactive carnival-like game that comments on the art criticism targeted at fiber and textile arts. The goal of the game is to throw the balls (which are stuffed with art criticism articles and are fashioned to look like eyeballs on one side) at the furry targets. When one of the furry targets is hit, a recording of an art criticism is triggered to play.
“Shadow Field/Granite Path” By Warren Seelig
This piece of artwork intertwines metal, stone, shadow, and light in such a beautiful way. Notice how the “Shadow Field” part of the title comes before the “Granite Path” part of the title. The woven rays of light and shadows that the art piece creates are just as important — if not more important — as the art piece itself.
“OUTSIDE/INSIDE THE BOX” EXHIBITION
“Formal Argument” By Diane Savona
“Formal Argument” literally creates a fashion statement. Every square inch of this quilted tuxedo suit comments on the history of fiber/textile art and mocks all of the critics that defined fiber/textile art as a low form of art.
I love how these pieces channel the architectural undergarments of the past to create a visual metaphor for women’s deepest desires and insecurities.
I am a eco-friendly nut, so I am always jumping for joy when I see sustainable artwork. It was interesting to see how the artist combined oxygen tubing, plastic lids, gutter clips, bottle tops, med-testers, florist card holders, and cable ties for this spunky and funky basket.
“Basket,” a piece completely made out of glass, definitely shattered the notion of what can and can’t be defined as Fiber/textile art. Amy Orr commented on the piece to my tour group by saying, “It’s an interesting approach to consider how the artist first of all decided to apply for this exhibition and consider this her medium and her field … and for the jurors to actually choose it in that same light.”
I like the bright array of colors and textures in this piece, as well as the social commentary that is created by the careful placement of each of these figures. When I first saw a picture of this on FiberPhiladelphia’s website, I thought each of the figures were life sized. In reality, they are at most 4-6 inches tall.
The undulating lines that this dynamic geometric piece creates is just spectacular. The high level of technical skill, imagination, and mathematical understanding is also beyond impressive.
There are so many more amazing photographs of art pieces that I wish I could show you. However, I think it would be better to not give it all away and ruin the surprise for you. Stay tuned for more FiberPhiladelphia 2012 coverage!