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Jan/Feb 2003


Fiberart International '01

Angie Harbin, Citrona, 2001; nylon twine, epoxy resin, oil pigment, encaustic wax; knotted and treated with epoxy resin, applied color; 10 by 18 by 16 inches.


A stimulating and engaging "Fiberart International 2001," held in Pittsburgh September 7 through October 28, comprised 81 works by 77 artists, chosen from 1,900 submissions. While two-thirds of the exhibitors reside in the United States, some are emigres, and they, along with artists from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, gave the exhibition a global flair. This 17th biennial exhibition, sponsored by the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, was divided between two distinguished venues, the Society for Contemporary Craft and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

The jurors' goal was to open a dialogue between the audience and works that were "well executed" and stirred an "emotional or intellectual response." Jurors were Ann Batchelder, a writer, curator, and past editor of this magazine; artist John Garrett, who uses found materials in his basket and wall-hung forms; and Kenneth Trapp, curator of the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery. Both established and emerging artists were selected.

Nora Auston, Bivouac, 2000; muslin, turmeric, batting; 47 bird forms, hand dyed, assembled; 36 by 90 by 24 inches. Photo: Lance King.

If there was a theme that ran through the varied pieces, it was an un-self-conscious freedom of expression, whether in choice of material, issue, or aesthetic. Blendings of craft traditions and fine art concerns were the norm, as in June O'Neil's vibrantly colored, abstract, tufty Patchwork or Judy McDermott's spare orange on Red Square, in which Amish quilts met painter Ad Reinhardt.

Standing out were novel works like Cynthia Minden's Witness, a crowd of 27 small reed figures; the ghostly nylon tulle tea setting of Jenny Lawrence's poignant Remembering Community II: Living Alone; Jacy Diggins' fungal-looking wax paper Indigo Bark Group; and Jerry Bleem's graceful stapled configuration Ferment.

Cynthia Minden, Witness, 2001; reed, paper, paints, dyes, stains, beeswax; twining, three-rod waling, collage; 27 figures, each approx. 24 by 4 by 4 inches. Photo: Boomer Jerritt.
Two installations effectively combined lightness with a deeper message: Nora Auston's Bivouac, 47 floppy, turmeric-colored bird forms piled upon one another in a broad arc, and Kaarina Kellomaki's Invisible Gossamer, a webby expanse dotted with the debris of affluent societies.

Highlights included elegant wall pieces by Akiko Kotani, whose ethereal Pollen in Winter #1 drifted freely among layers of white silk organza, and Hye Shin, whose woven silvery grid of Harmony was accented with circles of brown and black horsehair. Mary Giehl's disturbing Dressing-Up is in part a bronze casting on casters about being role cast and cast aside. Suhandan Ozay's clever cascade of forms based on traditional Anatolian shoes re-engages objects of traditional culture.

Jenny Lawrence, Remembering Community II: Living Alone (detail), 1999; nylon tulle on wood tray; fabric manipulated using thermoplastics; 6 by 18 by 12 inches.

Janis Jefferies, who also spoke at a forum held in conjunction with the exhibition, addressed memory in Poznan Factory 1, a haunting digital-on-cloth work that revives the remnants of an abandoned laundry room in a new fiber format. Other speakers were Ann Schumacher, whose enigmatic tapestry Vessels of Stillness suggests contemplative depths, and Julia Morrisroe, whose Blue Boy, the famed Gainsborough figure embroidered in pink as well as in blue on a diaper, challenges role modeling.

Tapestry continued to be well represented in this International, including Fuyuko Matsubara's sensuously colored dream scape In the Earth XI and Sarah Swett's delightful overhead view of Jane's Picnic III: Toast Marshmallows. Appliqué went Op in Barbara Watler's graphic Fingerprint Series #6.

Mary Giehl, Dressing-Up, 2000; bronze, muslin, wax, wheels, earth; sewn and cast; 15 by 13 by 10 inches.
Batchelder commended the guild for encouraging artists, and Garrett stressed that such alternative venues are crucial to artistic growth. Also significant is the educative value of this quality exhibition, complemented by the accompanying forum, related regional exhibitions, and a well-conceived, color, illustrated catalogue.

--Mary Thomas

Mary Thomas is the art critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and lives in New Stanton, Pennsylvania.







June O'Neil, Patchwork, 2001; cotton; machine appliqué; 43 by 43 inches.

Akiko Kotani,Pollen in Winter #1, 2001; silk thread, three layers of silk organza; hand stitched; 44 by 40 by 4 inches. Photo: Alex Jones.

Hye Shin, Harmony, 1999; linen, paper, horsehair, paint; weaving; 84 by 60 inches. Photo: Steve Gyurina.

Harmony, detail.

Suhandan Ozay, CARIKLAR-Anatolien Fiber Shoes, 2000; jute, cotton, sisal, handmade paper, Japanese paper, palm leaf, leather; fiber sculpture. Photo: Diafo.

Ann Schumacher, Vessels of Stillness, 2001; wool, linen, silk, rayon; tapestry; 35 by 57 inches. Photo: Mary Rezny

Julia Morrisroe, Blue Boy, 2000; embroidery on diaper; 14 by 11 inches.

Fuyuko Matsubara, In the Earth XI, 2000; hand-plied yarn, linen, cotton, silk, rayon; weaving; 33 by 43 inches.

Barbara Watler, Fingerprint Series: #6, 1999; cotton, Thermore batting, unbleached muslin, whole-cloth direct machine appliqué; 35.5 by 35.5 inches. Photo: Gerhard Heidersberger.

This review first appeared in:

Jan/Feb 2003

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