Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Innovations in Textiles, Fall 2007

by Rosemary Claus-Gray

Innovations in Textiles 7 is a fiber event held in the greater St. Louis region and of major importance in the fiber art field on a national scale. This biennial collaborative series is presented by 17 area galleries, museums & art institutions joining together to present exhibitions, artist/curator presentations and workshops featuring fiber artists of regional, national and international acclaim. The overall focus of the event is on the current state of textile arts and trends, with exhibits featuring a diverse range of materials and techniques.

I attended the opening weekend events that were held September 14-16, 2007, and will give you some of my impressions of a visually, artistically and intellectually stimulating weekend, one that was also a lot of fun.

In viewing so many different exhibits, I found myself impressed by the fusion of fiber with various media and techniques. Some exhibits challenged one’s definition of what ‘fiber’ is. Sometimes a material, such as metal screening, used a typical fiber technique such as weaving, and was included in an exhibit. I noticed that not only are the boundaries of various art and craft forms in fiber being crossed, they are being melded together in exciting ways.

Another quality I noticed in various exhibits that may becoming a trend is that so much of the artwork is coming off the walls, becoming more 3-dimensional/sculptural, assuming irregular, organic shapes. Some installations were provocative and meaningful. It was enriching to hear the artists talk about their works. While I think I understand what an artwork means, I get a different and deeper meaning when I hear the artist talks about it. It was also good to hear what the curators had to say about how they brought a particular show together. It’s important to learn how an exhibit is planned, artists chosen, and work displayed.

My weekend began on Friday, my friend and I went to The Gallery at Chesterfield Arts. The exhibit there, “No Rules: Contemporary Fiber Art,” features works by artists Marianne Axboe, Drew Donnelly Benage, Carole Braig, Joyce Briscoe, Chris Burton, and Pat Owoc. The show presents quilts and 3-d fiber art that is varied in style and excellent in quality. It’s a very interesting exhibit with some stunning pieces. I particularly liked Pat Owoc’s sculptural piece in the middle of the room, with sheer organza, printed with photos, on an old-time wooden clothes dryer. Some of the work there was very colorful, some subtle. Marianne Axboe’s work drew me back again and again.

Pat Owoc, St. Louis, MO. Fading memories, vanishing traces. Featured in “No Rules: Contemporary Fiber Art,” on view at Chesterfield Arts through October 27, 2007.

Friday evening, we went to Art Saint Louis for the opening of the biennial nine-state regional exhibit, “Fiber Focus 2007,” juried by Jane Sauer, internationally collected artist and owner of Jane Sauer Gallery, Santa Fe, NM. The show had multiple types of fiber presented as art. Among the various craft forms exhibited were weavings, embroideries, quilts, surface design techniques, a paper garment, the use of twigs and paper, and various sculptures including the Best of Show winner, Poom (with Open Hands), by Shin-hee Chin of McPherson, KS. Her sculpture is made from cotton and linen thread. Leandra Spangler, who won the Merit Award for best 3-dimensional piece, used reed, gut, gold leaf, and glass beads in her Anomala sculpture. Peggy Wyman used basketry techniques to create Metamorphosis of a Dream, a basket only in the most expansive description—it is a marvelous, organic shape.

Leandra Spangler, Columbia, MO. Anomala, 2006, Reed, Gut, Gold Leaf, Glass Beads, 9”x34”x27”. Featured in "Fiber Focus 2007".

In her juror’s statement, Sauer wrote, “I chose the work that demonstrates both technical proficiency and conceptual excellence.” For the awards she selected, it appeared that most pieces had a concept presented through the art. They were not simply beautifully done pieces of art. For example, Jennifer Reis’ beaded work, Supply and Demand, won the Merit Award in Quilting, and is a work that conveys a social/political/religious statement.

Saturday morning, my friend and I began the day with a quick tour of the Missouri Botanical Garden’s “Chapungu” exhibit of stone sculpture from Zimbabwe. These are at once both primitive and modern. Some pieces are stunning. If you are planning a trip to St. Louis, do try to fit a visit in to the Missouri Botanical Garden.

We then proceeded back downtown for the beginning of a day-long series of seven gallery talks at various locations. The first talk of the day was at Art Saint Louis where we were joined by about 75 others, many of them artists & collectors, most of whom proceeded from venue to venue throughout the day. It was informative to hear “Fiber Focus 2007” juror Jane Sauer discuss the work in the gallery and why she selected the various pieces for Awards of Merit. While my work did not win an award, I’m proud to have been juried into this exhibit with my piece, Façade XXII.

We then walked to the Ellen Curlee Gallery to view Luanne Rimel and Liz Rideal’s exhibit, “Photography and Textiles in Conversation” and to hear Rimel speak about her work. Her works were a fascinating combination of photography and cloth, with hands as the subject. Many times throughout the day, I overheard artists talking about this particular exhibit.

The exhibit & gallery talk schedule for the day was carefully planned, so it was possible to get from one gallery to the next in good time. To get from venue to venue, one did need use of a car, although some locations were in walking distance from one another. Having a buddy who navigates while another one drives made it possible to attend all of the seven gallery talks. Many of the exhibits were small enough that they could be viewed completely in the short time allowed for the talks each venue.

From the Ellen Curlee Gallery, we went on to the Central West End and Xen Gallery to see the work of Laura Strand. The exhibit is called “The Language of Mapping.” The artists in attendance were aware of Strand’s recent health concerns, ones that limited her functioning—we all admired the powerful works she created during that difficult time. On view was a book Strand created as studies for the larger works in the exhibit. The book showed us the artist’s creative process. The power of the human spirit comes through in Strand’s work.

We walked to Left Bank Books to see “Small Textile Constructions and Works on Paper” by Marjorie Hoeltzel. This exhibit was not on the list of 7 galleries hosting talks during the day, but was located just across the street from Xen Gallery. It was a delightful exhibit by a charming artist. Hoetzel creates much of her work using deconstructed ties, creating rich, colorful pieces. A large piece of hers was selected for an award in Art Saint Louis “Fiber Focus 2007” exhibit.

After lunch, we headed for University City and the Gallery at Regional Arts Commission for “Material Attitudes: Defying Textile’s Stereotypes.” Artist Jane Birdsall-Lander curated this exhibit, inviting regional artists to present innovative works. The curator talked about her selections and introduced the artists who each talked about their works. Amber Slater Raymond used a corner of the room to splatter black paint, then used string to tie one splatter to another across the corner, having the work come off the wall, literally. In her multi-layered pieces, Patti Shanks used old quilts, took them apart, and then re-constructed them with minimal stitching. Her work was powerful, in my opinion. The other artists, Sarah Colby, Hannah Reeves, Slater Raymond, Lee Suarez, Valerie Wedel, and Cayse Zavaglia each presented work that varied from installation to incredible photo-realistic portraits done with crewel embroidery techniques.

At Craft Alliance, artist Kate Anderson curated "Mystery Contained: Contemporary Sculptural Basketry.” Featured artists included Lanny Bergner, Nancy Moore Bess, Danielle Bodine, Charissa Brock, Lindsay Ketterer Gates, Jan Hopkins, Jane Birdsall Lander, Jennifer Maestre, Debora Muhl, Jill Powers, Elizabeth Whyte Schulze, and Cindy Wrobel. In her gallery talk, Anderson conveyed excitement about the current state of basketry and fiber art. She commented on the fusion of various materials into basketry and the sculptural shapes emerging in this field, beyond vessels, or containers. Many of the artists, many of whom were from out of town, were present and discussed their work in this beautiful, stunning exhibit.

Also at Craft Alliance is the exhibit “Intimacy: New Fiber Sculptures” featuring work by Edna J. Patterson-Petty. This is a small, separate exhibit of fiber work with both ethnic and universal meaning. It is appropriately presented in an intimate space located off of the main gallery.

Within walking distance is COCA, with Ann Coddington Rast presenting “merging”. There are several installations in this exhibit, each one challenging to understand and very meaningful when one does comprehend the artist’s intent. Although the brief titles help the viewer grasp the meaning, it was an incredible experience to hear the artist speak about her concepts and techniques. At first glance, one mysterious piece seemed to be something like a fisherman’s net on the wall—it cast a shadow, which is part of the installation. The title is Absence, and as you look again, you see the shape of a person, larger than life, cut out of the net. Absence. Ah, yes. The artist spoke about a friend she had lost, eloquently expressing the emptiness left behind. The other pieces were also evocative and meaningful, and most enriched by the artist’s talk.

The last stop for the planned venues was at the Gallery of Fine Arts, Fontbonne University for the exhibit “A Sense of Place” featuring artists Leesa Zarinelli Gawlik, Dawn Ottensmeier and Barbara Simon. Each artist’s work was in a different style, yet the work all related to the central theme. Barbara Simon’s work evokes the Japanese tea ceremonies, while other works of hers speaks to environmental concerns. Leesa Zarinelli Gawlik has masterful use of lines in her compositions—they are well suited to fiber and quilting techniques. Dawn Ottensmeier is inspired by fabric, and creates in resonance with the fabric used. Some of the work in this small exhibit was stunningly beautiful, and meaningful.

To wrap up the weekend, a panel discussion called “Textiles in the Mainstream” was held on Sunday morning at the Saint Louis Art Museum Auditorium. I benefited from hearing internationally exhibited artists Jane Sauer, Ken Anderson and Lindsay Gates and collector Cathy Wice discuss the current state of fiber art, each discussion the medium from their various points of view. This illustrated discussion focused on the various aspects of creating, exhibiting and collecting art, pulling it all together in ways that were insightful to this artist. Questions from the audience and answers from the panel members were also valuable.

As long-winded as this is, it is but a brief description of just some of the seventeen exhibits featured in the Innovations in Textiles collaborative event in the greater St. Louis area this fall. There is an abundance of riches here for the serious fiber artist. It was fascinating to feast on the visual and intellectual stimulation that is food for the artist.

BRAVO to all those who collaborated on pulling together this fabulous, informative art-filled event. In my opinion, this is a NOT TO MISS event, on a par with the top fiber events nationally—I look forward to 2009 and the next Innovations in Textiles collaborative.
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Rosemary Claus-Gray is a textile artist working in Doniphan, Missouri. You can view her works at www.rosemaryclaus-gray.com.
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Innovations in Textile Arts 7 2007 was organized by Craft Alliance and featured exhibitions at: Art Saint Louis, Chesterfield Arts, Craft Alliance, COCA, Ellen Curlee Gallery, Fontbonne University, Foundry Art Centre, The Gallery at Regional Arts Commission, Jacoby Arts Center, Left Bank Books, Main Street Art Gallery, Duane Reed Gallery, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Artsts’ Guild, Sheldon Art Galleries, University City Public Library Gallery, and Xen Gallery. To learn more about the event click here.
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Editor’s note: As of this posting, several exhibitions from the Innovations series remain on view:

Through October 25, 2007
The Gallery, University City Public Library, 6701 Delmar Blvd., University City, MO. “Quintessential Quilt 2007.” 314/727-3150.

Through October 26, 2007
Foundry Art Centre, 520 N. Main St., St. Charles, MO. St. Louis Women’s Support Group presents “Quilt National 2007.” Admission: $6. 636/255-0270.

Through October 27, 2007
Chesterfield Arts, 444 Chesterfield Center, Chesterfield, MO. “No Rules: Contemporary Fiber Art.” 636/519-1955.

Through October 28, 2007
Craft Alliance Gallery
, 6640 Delmar Blvd., University City, MO “Mystery Contained: Contemporary Sculptural Basketry"; Charak Gallery: “Intimacy: New Fiber Scuptures,” Edna J. Patterson-Petty. 314/725-1177.
The Millstone Gallery at COCA, 524 Trinity Ave., University City, MO. “Ann Coddington Rast: merging.” 314/725-6555.

Through November 30, 2007
World Trade Center, St. Louis, 121 S. Meramec Ave., lobby & 11th floor, Clayton, MO. “Art Saint Louis Presents Texiles by Marjorie Hoeltzel, Dawn Ottensmeier & Sun Smith-Foret.ˆ 314/241-4810.

Through January 5, 2008
The Sheldon Art Galleries, Bellwether Gallery of St. Louis Artists, 6348 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO. “Unraveled: Crossing the Line Between Fashion & Art.” 314/533-9900.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Focus on Local

In response to the lack of published art reviews in our fair city, Art Saint Louis has launched this blog, Art Saint Louis / Art Dialogue.

With a focus on local, we aim to provide area artists & galleries the means to fair consideration and peer review of their works and exhibitions. This blog will feature exhibition reviews, interviews, studio visits, images & more. We aim to present a wide range of opinions and reflections on what is being created & exhibited by artists in the St. Louis metro community.

Art Saint Louis welcomes experienced and first-time art writers/reviewers residing in the St. Louis metro area and representing all walks of artistic life, including artists, BFA & MFA students, curators, critics, professors, etc... We’re seeking interesting viewpoints and thought-provoking reviews that will be of interest to artists and non-artists. Proper English language usage, grammar and the ability to put one’s thoughts down in a professional manner are important considerations. You don't have to be a 'professional' writer to write like a professional.

Submission Guidelines:
- There are no deadlines.
- Submissions will be considered at all times.
- No guarantees that an item will be published.
- Since this is a blog, submissions should be kept to a reasonable length— so do your best to self-edit.
- We will lightly edit items, with possible corrections to spelling, grammar, punctuation & facts. Some items may need more serious editing, so we reserve the right to edit as-needed.
- Submissions should be presented in the most professional manner possible.
- We will not consider or publish the following: unprofessional, incoherent/unclear writings; items using profanity; shameless self-promotion; anything resembling an outright mean-spirited rant.
- Even when posted on Art Saint Louis / Art Dialogue, the story remains property of the author. Upon posting, Art Saint Louis retains the right to reproduce the story for publicity and other Art Saint Louis organizational purposes.
- All items will be posted in a timely manner.
- New postings will be publicized to the community at-large via e-mail and list serves.
- We aren’t able to pay writers, however each writer’s byline will be posted with the review/story and can include a hyperlink to a personal/art website and any other bio or contact info you wish to be included.

We can gladly provide you with a list of current exhibitions on view in the metro area as well as the appropriate contact person at the venue. If you review a show, please ask the gallery/museum director for digital images to include with the story and be sure to get permission to reproduce said images. Also be sure to get proper photo credits, including: artist; title of artwork; date of work; media; dimensions; photo courtesy of; photo credit; etc.

The feedback we've received so far indicates that this project is worth the effort. We believe that our community needs a more consistent & constant flow of artistic dialogue. With this new resource, Art Saint Louis / Art Dialogue, we hope to get conversation started.

If you'd like to review an exhibit, interview an artist or write about local art, please contact: Robin Hirsch, Art Saint Louis Associate Director and Art Dialogue Blog Editor at robin@artstlouis.org