Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Textile Symposium Shows Reflecting the Metaphysical

by Sun Smith-Fôret

"Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing"
Jacoby Art Center, Alton, IL
August 26-October 2, 2011
"Lyrical Objects," Jane Birdsall Lander
William & Florence Schmidt Art Center, Belleville, IL
September 1-October 1, 2011

Most of the textile artists in St. Louis have known each other and each otherʼs work for years. We came up in our practices through Craft Alliance sponsored workshops, University Art Schools, graduate studies. We participate in local, regional, national and international exhibitions, studio visit, socialize, speak to each otherʼs classes, lecture for galleries, museums and alliances. We have been each otherʼs students and teachers.

Pat Vivod. Topographia. Shibori rust silk, digital Jacquard weaving-cotton (courtesy Laura Strand), wool roving for trapunto (courtesy Erin Cork), silk and rayon threads with a commercial wool blend felt back. 48”x51”. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

We have recognizable bodies of work, reputations as individual artists. A decision to collaborate is not taken lightly. It requires mutual trust and respect, a will toward invention, excitement and pleasure in the anticipation of an unconventional outcome.

Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing” curator Pat Vivod and gallery visitor viewing Jo Stealey's piece, Earth to Heaven. 2011. Linen, rust dyed silk organdy (courtesy Pat Vivod), devoré cloth (courtesy Laura Strand), processed leaves, thread, vintage doily, digitally printed cloth, waxed linen thread, antique yoke. 11"x15". Photo courtesy Andrew Dobson, Jacoby Arts Center.

Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing” at the Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, IL, curated by Patricia Vivod, is an example of successful collaboration in which the aesthetic marks of all participants are clearly evident yet the individual parts blend in a sumptuous and gently compelling chorale. (Gallery Talk September 25, 2 pm). Collaborating artists Erin Cork, Erin Vigneau Dimick, Nina Ganci, Jo Stealey, Laura Strand, and Pat Vivod are offering pieces which include traditional and innovative techniques and materials-shibori silk dyeing, wrapping, tying, felting, embroidery, jacquard weaving, patterning with processed hand gathered leaves, constructed cloth, vintage lingerie, 2- and 3-d construction.

Erin Cork. Collaboration with Erin Vigneau Dimick. 2011. Found antique doily (courtesy Erin Vigneau Dimick), yarn, naural dye, 12"x12"x4". Photo courtesy Pat Vivod.

Most works in the Jacoby show are meditative, insinuating themselves gently into our minds, minds which approach the works with thoughts about how and why objects come to exist. There is meaning from materials which retain their own essences and associations both historically and in a current atmosphere of postmodern use, disuse and meaninglessness, which is not the same as the Buddhist concept of detachment. There is meaning in the herstory of each artistʼs personal production. There is meaning in how the collaborations came about. What comes to the fore in this show is the play among the ideas of harmony, mindfulness, order, and invention. For me it is a palpable thrill to see evidence of the artist as seeker and finder, and as celebrator of the ineffable.

Erin Vigneau Dimick. (left) Second Bloom. 2011. Rust and tea dyed vintage nylon slip, 40"x16"x10"; (right) By Tradition Bound. 2011. Indigo dyed cotton ikat fabric and vintage nylon slip, 29"x21". Photograph by Pat Vivod.

Ascension, by virtue of merger with the art object, to a realm of Mind was in Northern Romantic sensibility, from Freidrich to Rothko termed “The Sublime”. Kandinski documented the search for the spiritual sublime in art in his seminal work of 1911 “Considering the Spiritual in Art.” Kandinski described the work of the painter (artist) as listening and knowing the effects of his/her craft “in order to produce paintings (works) which are not just the effect of a random process, but the fruit of an authentic work and the result of an effort toward the inner beauty.”

Gallery view: "Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing," with artist Laura Strand (left) and visitor. Artworks pictured: (foreground) Erin Cork. Collaboration with Jo Stealey and Laura Strand . 2011 Chair (courtesy Laura Strand), felted wool, gourds, 3'x1'3"x1'3". (background) Nina Ganci. Mobile. 2011. 10'x6'; (middle pair of weavings) Laura Strand. Stillness of Water - The Sun Rises and Stillness of Water - The Sun Sets. 2011. 48"x48" each; (far right) Erin Dimick. Herstory. 2011. Silk organza (courtesy Jo Stealey) & satin, cotton mull, gold leaf, Mulberry paper, maple, polyester thread, 24.75"x23.25". Photograph by Pat Vivod.

“Kandinski calls “abstract” the content that painting must express, that is to say this invisible life that we are. The Kandinskian equation can be written as follows: Interior =interiority = life = = pathos = abstract.” (Michael Henry, Seeing the Invisible, on Kandinski, p. 11)

Laura Strand. Arachne's Web. 2011. Dextrin over dyed cotton napkin, devoré over handmade paper (courtesy Jo Stealey), gold leaf,  24"x26". Photo courtesy Pat Vivod .

Another materially, spiritually and intellectually rewarding show on the east side of the river is Jane Birdsall Landerʼs “Lyrical Objects”, waxed-linen wrapped steam-bent wood sculptures at the William & Florence Schmidt Art Center on the campus of Southwestern Illinois College.

Landerʼs finely honed aesthetic engages us visually then conceptually, invites us to connect with our most primitive experiences of written language. Her exquisitely spare constructions concretize the presence of letters which were first thoughts. Again, these art works are products of an inner life seeking both outward expression and communion with the ideas and thoughts of others. If we did not seek connection with Mind at a deep level we would not make art or desire to imbibe, or breathe as Kindinski would say, the materialized but essentially spiritual thought of others (artists), or of the elemental principles available through art to pilgrims after truth, seen and unseen.

"Collaboration: Reaping and Sewing," remains on view at Jacoby Art Center, Alton, IL, through October 2, 2011. The Jacoby is located at 627 E. Broadway, Alton, IL. 618/462-5222. The Gallery is free & open to the public T-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. 12-4 p.m.

"Lyrical Objects," Jane Birdsall Lander, remains on view through October 1, 2011 at William & Florence Schmidt Art Center, Belleville, IL. Lander's work is represented by Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, MO. The Schmidt Art Center is located on the campus of Southwestern Illinois College, 2500 Carlyle Ave., Belleville, IL. 618/222-5ART (5278). The Schmidt is free & open to the public T-W 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Th 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sun Smith-Fôret is a practicing psychotherapist in St. Louis and a regional textile artist. Her mixed media textiles, drawings and paintings on the subject of movies over time have been exhibited in numerous exhibitions, including "The Final Cut,” her recent solo exhibition presented at Saint Louis University Museum of Art, St. Louis, MO (May 6-July 3, 2011). Sun's work is represented by Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, MO.

Friday, September 9, 2011

“Amy Granat”

by Laura Elizabeth Barone

Amy Granat
White Flag Projects, St. Louis, MO
September 8-October 22, 2011

Amy Granat’s films are the result of deliberate interaction with the object of the spectacle itself – the actual 16mm black and white film reels. A thirty-something native St. Louisan, Granat is known across the country and Europe for her experimental cutting, scratching, and manipulation of film to create painterly effects that translate poetically onto the screen. White Flag Projects presents a solid variety of Granat’s filmic work that engages with abstraction, narrative, and nature from the past decade.

Amy Granat, Still from Ghostrider, 2006, silent 16mm black and white film transferred to DVD. Courtesy White Flag Projects.

Ghostrider, a silent 16mm black and white film transferred to DVD confronts viewers immediately as they walk into the gallery. On a large, floor-to-ceiling screen, the film, consisting of constantly moving and evolving black shapes on a white background, is a mesmerizing and classic example of Granat’s ability to simply and effectively use the medium of film, the moving picture. While trying to identify direct shapes or objects may be futile (a butterfly? Railroad tracks?), it is clear that the constant negotiation of positive and negative space using only black and white creates a hypnotic effect that is peaceful amidst the constant change.

Amy Granat, Still from Felicia in Zurich, 2009, silent 16mm color film transferred to DVD. Courtesy White Flag Projects.

While Walking with Truffles, Painted Faces, Strip/Stripe, Faces, Driving West (2006-09), a film presented on a television on the ground recalls the kind of raw, dis-oriented ‘day in a life of’ style of legendary avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas, and Felicia in Zurich (2009-11) features a dancer in a way that parallels the movement, light, and sound that film gets its own power from, it was really Lines in the Sand (2010) that drew me in for a closer look. A two-channel projection, the black 16mm and white film, transferred to DVD shows a person with a stick drawing lines in the sand. No head or identifying features or shown, just the person’s arms, legs, and that stick, making simplistic designs in the sand. Yet, when one puts on the headphones that are provided, it changes the entire viewing experience. The music accompanying the film is a majestic, thrilling orchestra piece, full, luscious and resonating with accomplishment, all for this simple act. Yet that music points to something much bigger than the act being shown, but rather could be a celebration of actually doing, actually creating. In a world full of talk, predictions, and statistics, I think that Lines in the Sand playfully commemorates the act of being alive and human and recognizing that such an existence should include action and experimentation.

Amy Granat, Still from Lines in the Sand, 2009, two channel projection, black and white 16mm film with sound, transferred to DVD. Courtesy White Flag Projects.

Finally, upstairs in White Flag’s library space is a treat: four 16mm projectors are set up in front of a wall, along with a motion sensor, that displays beautiful, naturalistic images of waves in El Matador (X5) (2010). Viewers can hear and see the film going in and out of the projectors, creating a nostalgic feel, and a desire to reach out and touch the projected color images, slightly moving and undulating, like breathing postcards you want to take home with you and collect.

At once breaking all the rules and staying true to her medium, it is truly a privilege to have a good-sized exhibition of Granat’s work come to her hometown, presenting film in radical and classic ways in a place that provides ample space to spend some time with it.

Amy Granat” continues through October 22, 2011. White Flag Projects is located at 4568 Manchester Avenue, St. Louis, MO. 314/531-3442. The Gallery is free & open to the public Tuesday–Saturday, 12-5 p.m.

Laura Barone is currently completing her Master's Degree in Art History with a focus on contemporary photography. She recently served as a Curatorial Intern at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. For comments or inquiries, e-mail her at