Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"... and then there were nine"

by Jennifer Weigel

"... and then there were nine"
Morton J. May Foundation Gallery, Maryville University, St. Louis, Missouri
October 12-November 20, 2009.

Joyce Briscoe. Reflections on Nine.

ArtFiber St. Louis' "... and then there were nine" exhibition currently on view at Maryville University through November 20, features works by Marianne Axboe, Drew Donnelly Benage, Carole Braig, Joyce Briscoe, Toni Disano, Deb Lewis, Pat Owoc, Joanne Raab, Lisa Von Holt.

Pat Owoc. Landthreads 9.

Although their origins as Art Quilt Alliance are still prominent in "... and then there were nine," the exhibiting artists explore a wide variety of art and fiber techniques beyond what many would consider to be representative of contemporary quiltmaking. Some examples of this can be seen in Carole Braig’s Bowl of Balls which incorporates both basketry and felting techniques, Lisa Von Holt’s numerous explorations in shibori stitching and indigo dyeing, and Pat Owoc’s Toys Mourn Childhood’s End, an installation piece featuring children’s chairs and toys shrouded in fabric and bound with black ribbon. But apart from the breadth of exploration, all of the works in the show include some elements of stitching and utilize fabric, thus connecting the artists’ differing styles and approaches.

Lisa Von Holt. Shibori Sampler.

Several themes carry through this group exhibition, and many of the artists touch on different themes in different artworks. Nature, history, and world cultures have always figured prominently in fiber art. Marianne Axboe’s Rapeseed Field (Springtime in Denmark) and Deb Lewis’ Treetop Mariachis celebrate flora and fauna while evoking vibrant memories of past travels, real and imagined. Joanne Raab’s Erwinna, Pennsylvania reflects on a worn structure and its past use.

Deb Lewis. Circles.

Marianne Axboe. Dance of the Nine Dandelions.

Meanwhile, some artists focus more on technique, visual understanding and the subject of art. Drew Donnelly Benage’s portraits offer studies in light and color reminiscent of both pointillism and the pixellation seen in digital technology. Carole Braig’s One of Picasso’s Women connects the process of piecing a quilt together with Cubism and the planes conveyed therein. Joyce Briscoe’s Ahm-ish Bars reflects upon the traditional Amish Bars quilt pattern while asserting her individuality as “never a girl who loved rules.”

Carole Braig. Nine Doorways.

Still other artists’ works are imbued with social commentary. Toni Disano’s work explores themes of depression, memory & aging, and womanhood, including Area 25, which examines mental illness and societal responses. Joyce Briscoe’s Security includes a quote about basic human rights by playwright Eve Ensler. Deb Lewis’ Unemployment Jungle depicts a dense population of silhouetted figures with their hands raised as if in despair or to ask why.

Drew Donnelly Benage. Door County Sunflower: Nine Values.

Toni Disano. Nine Sketch.

In response to the show title, each of the artists created one 18”x18” square panel reflecting upon the number nine. The explorations vary from the mathematical (Joyce Briscoe’s Reflections on Nine) to the technical (Drew Donnelly Benage’s Door County Sunflower: Nine Values) to the self-referential (Tony Disano’s Nine Sketch). The grouped presentation of these pieces further unifies the show as a whole while speaking to individual sensibilities and interests.

Joanne Raab. Like Minded Spirits.

All in all, "... and then there were nine" touches on the breadth of approach, concept, media and technique seen in contemporary art quilts today and offers a vision of how these nine local artists have reassessed and redefined the genre.

"... and then there were nine" remains on view through November 20, 2009 at the Morton J. May Foundation Gallery located on the campus of Maryville University, Library Building, 650 Maryville University Dr., St. Louis, MO 63141. 314/529-9381. Gallery Hours: M-Th, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; F 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sun 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Jennifer Weigel is a St. Louis-based multi-media artist. A member of Art Saint Louis, she serves on our Program Committee. Her work was recently exhibited in: “Common Threads: Fusion of Fiber & Glass,” Third Degree Glass Factory, St. Louis, MO; St. Louis Women’s Caucus’ “Made by Hand.” Crossroads Art Studios & Gallery, St. Charles, MO; “Reclaim, Renew, Reuse,” Atrium Gallery, Ball State University, Muncie, IN; and in “Art Outside 2009,” Schlafly Bottleworks, Maplewood, MO.