Thursday, March 08, 2012

A View From Inside: Doing Fiber in Philadelphia

This past weekend the I 90 in the north east united states became the velvet highway as I boarded the Mega Bus in Toronto, hoping and dreading the necessary blizzard that brings March in like a lion and out like a lamb. It didn’t happen. I saw Cherry blossoms instead. Based at the Rodeway Inn   on Walnut and 12th streets I could not have been better located to walk to the 40 exhibitions Venuses that make up Fiber Philadelphia. Heading out to Moore College for the official opening I wondered past a mix of architecture spanning the late colonial Federal style to the Comcast Center was designed by architect Robert A. M. Stern. Once there I greeted people I recognized and sought the organizers Bruce Hoffman and Amy Orr just to touch base after a couple of weeks of e-mails. Then I was greeted by Pat Hickman former Textile Society of America president, a fellow Canadian and a maker with a long and important career. After hello she told me this event was all about stitches. She said she has never seen such a concentration of needle work and that I had something to look forward to.

Textiles in Philadelphia in both industry and education have had an interesting journey also for example Moore College of Art and Design  where the official opening: welcome took place on March 2 has a pivotal place in that journey.

Nina de Angeli Walls in "Art and Industry in Philadelphia: Origins of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women"  states "Moore College of Art and Design... Originally known as the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, it began in 1848 as a charitable effort to train "needy and deserving" young women in textile and wallpaper design, wood engraving, and other salable artistic skills. During the 1850s, governance passed from the woman founder to men of the city's financial and manufacturing elite."*

"Philadelphia University was founded in 1884 as the Philadelphia Textile School in the wake of the 1876 Centennial Exposition. A group of textile manufacturers, led by Theodore Search, noticed a sizable gap between the quality and variety of American textile products and those displayed by European mills. To address this, the group established the School to educate America’s textile workers and managers." from the university's web site

Lets not forget the original Maker of the United States of America's first textile.
this is Betsy Ross House.

Ilaria Margutti "Mend of Me" embroidery on Canvas, 50 X 50 cm in Mending = Art
Gershman Y, Borowsky Gallery (click to download Mend of Me PDF catalogue)
photo by Joe lewis taken with permission of curator

Mr. X Stitch Jamie Chalmers refers to embroidery as a “gateway craft” in his introduction to the 2011 book “Push Stitchery” from Lark books and while Pat Hickman did alert me to the stitching to be seen I want to mention the exceptional weaving I saw. Virginia Davis is some one who has concentrated on ikat the skill she shows in her tie ups dying has made / kept Ikat a living practice but she has taken it further. It may be hard to convince some one who does not know the technique that the blue square in the centre of a natural / beige coloured piece of hand woven linen that is hanging in the basement at Snyderman – Works Gallery  is in any way innovative and perhaps it is not really. What it is, is virtuosic control of a method of resist dying that is after all about control. It is the ability to choose ahead of the weaving process just where the colour will appear. What we normally see in Ikat are slightly unfocused /washy areas of colour possibly blending into the next or in separate areas in different colours, seldom is it in “Hard Edge” blocks of stripes or blocks as is Davis’s ‘Place Mat’. Talking with her at the artist reception she did point out with pride the ikat with woven shibori work of Hillary Steel. In “Paciencia” Steel has not used the inlaid shibori draw threads to do a second or rather shibori over dye so they remain woven in and create a white line drawing of sorts, It is and interesting combination of techniques and I would like to see more of her work in which has the shibori taken to its conclusion.

Virginia Davis, Place Mat, 36"x 36", Pigment in linen, ikat weaving, 2010. photo Joe Lewis taken with permission

There is some jacquard work spread thorough out town Lia Cooks Tracts and Traces 2011 is at the Snyderman-Works,in thier 8th Biennial [you can read my piece, Looking at Lia Cook through the Maze in fQ Volume 6 Issue 2 / Summer 2010] Cynthia Schira  is also at SW and in the Distinguished Educators at the Crane. I saw the work of Cook and Schira at the 8th International Kaunas Biennial TEXTILE 11: REWIND-PLAY-FORWARD last October. 
Cynthia Schira, Without Words, 57"x 51", Cotton & silk, Jacquard woven and appliquéd, 2011. photo Joe Lewis taken with permission

Schira says about her work "I have become fascinated by the visual notational methods or systems specific to different professions. The staff of written music; the graph markings of the weaver; the layout of an architect; the equations of a mathematician - all are meaningful to the practitioners within the particular field but often are an indecipherable code to others. I am also intrigued by how these marks change and evolve over time, so although their usage remains the same, their appearance historically differs. In combining and juxtaposing parts of these various systems, new patterns and forms develop provoking in my mind new allusions to follow. The complexity of the graphic relationships, the allusions along with the morphing of the marks by their translation into woven structures continue to involve me."
Page on Snyderman works website  accessed March 6, 2012

Source Code" (Detail) Cotton | Jacquard Woven | 120" X 60" X 24" from website
The comparison to be made between Cook and Schira is an interest in systems and how the jacquard loom itself is one that simply responds to the information it is fed. Since I have looked at Cook’s work over and extended period of time I can see how she has moved toward the subject matter of the synaptic function of the brain as imaged through medical machinery. Schira in her statement talks of her interest in imagery of various notations and in her piece “Source Code” which is in the Distinguished Educators exhibition is in her own words “unreadable computer gibberish has been integrated into many works to symbolize the continuum of the meaningless chatter of our modern world. I weave the images together physically as well as visually”. It is interesting how none western script and text has been used as pattern and there is now a growing use of schematics, code mechanical and even molecular that has made it on to the surface of textiles. Its original meaning no longer carrying meaning its layout regarded as nothing more then design.

Michael Radyk "Swan Point" image provided by artist for story in fibreQUARTERLY

 There are more woven works to view but on in particular holds my attention, it both fascinates and frustrated me, I am to well trained to touch things in exhibitions and this pieces cries out to be touched. I became acquainted with Michael Radyk’s work in the Binary Fiction/ Digital Weaving exhibition at Eisntrager-Howard Gallery, Universityof Nebraska, Lincoln October 4-29, 2010during the Textile Society of America’s 2010 Symposium. We were both in Fibremen International exhibition, Kherson Local Lore Museum, Kherson, Ukraine October 18-29, 2011.  He is also featured in fQ Volume 7 Issue 3/ Men and Textiles.  His piece "Swan Point" is in Outside the Box at the Crane Building and it shimmers and flows, it looks both hard and soft. On his website he describes it as a “large flocked version of the textile "Swan Point".       

“The first Jacquard wall piece is called “Swan Point.” The discovery of Swan Point Cemetery’s refined grounds and its surrounding mess of thickets is the visual reference for the piece. Unlike Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, which is surrounded by the city, Swan Point Cemetery invites discovery from the outside, while peering into its timeless suspended interior from the vantage point of an outsider caged in the thickets of the present.

The yarn used for “Swan Point” is vinyl coated polyester, which has a stiffness that allows the cut floats to protrude with branchlike quality. The piece hovers above the viewer, almost ten feet, while inviting inspection into its flowing structure. Veiling is achieved by the overlapping cut threads and shows emerge from below as light is softened. “
from his website Thursday, September 30, 2010 BINARY FICTION: DIGITAL WEAVING 2010
accessed March 6, 2012

While watching this piece (I did say watching rather then looking because it is very active bouncing light it is like a waterfall) I met Rebekah Ritter of “Some Things Looming” a weaving shop and gallery in Reading Pa. which is participating in Fiber Philadelphia with a satellite exhibition Refuse/Re-seen that is happening in April 14 - June 8, 2012. She commented on my rapid eye movement and proceeded to ask me who I was and told me about here business which had already “Liked” on facebook and quote my version of ‘it’s a small textile world after all”

Alison Mercer, “white Broody Girl #2, 7” X 10” in Intimate Stitches at Kellijane 1721 Spruce Street, Philadelphia
March 2 - April 2, 2012.  photo Joe Lewis taken with permission
Looking and talking was what this opening weekend was all about getting into the swing and rhythm took a while. Then ability to “network” formally called “Schmoozing” while casting a critical eye has become second nature to me. Time is always condensed at events such as this and as enjoyable as it is to catch up with and meet new people in the field it is about the work. As Pat Hickman told me this event was all about stitching I will give you a quick run through form the three of then many shows dedicated to stitching that I did make it to.

Erin Endicott with her work in Narrative Thread: Orly Cogan, Flore Gardner, Erin Endicott, and Donna Rosenthal
Wexler Gallery,
March 2nd through April 28th.
201 North 3rd Street, 
Philadelphia, PA 19106

The exhibition will address multiple understandings of identity, story telling, domestic work, and domestic objects

Adam Cohen Sniper Army Ant, 11" x 20", Embroidery floss on camouflage fabric, 2009
Intimate Stitches
March 2 - April 2, 2012
1721 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19103

Featuring the work of Renie Adams, Emily Barletta, Adam Cohen, Marcia Docter, Erin Endicott, Karen Hampton, Christine Mauersberger, Alison Mercer, Kathryn Pannepacker, and Ellen Schinderman. Curated by Erin Endicott and Bruce Hoffman.

Sally Spinks, Random acts of kindness, wool silk, cotton (knitted garment silhouette) on (store bought post) card 2009-11.
Mending = Art
Gershman Y, Borowsky Gallery
March 4 - May 6, 2012
401 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA19147

Featuring the work of Dorothy Caldwell, Erin Endicott, Ilaria Margutti, Barbara Shapiro, Amy Houghton, Michael Swaine, Jan Vormann, Libbie Soffer, Sally Spinks, Janet Haigh, Wolfie E. Rawk and Diane Savona. Curated by Diane Savona.

After Thought

Margaritta Cabrea , Slow Cooker, 14" X 10" X 8" Vinyl, thread, glass lid and electrical wire 2003,
part of  the 8th International Fiber Biennial, at Snyderman-Works Galleries,
photo by Joe Lewis taken with permission

In her lecture Elissa Auther brought up a number of makers whose practices have a political motive/ thrust behind them. Several pieces of one such makers work could be seen at Snyderman-Works .Margaritta Cabrea whose re -creations of objects manufacture in the free Trade zones "Maquiladora" on the Mexican Texas boarder are contentious and possibly cute and silly, if their story comes across with out explanation I am not sure. While textile work with a political focus and force while often a tool of propaganda for the state or church there is history of dissent and subversion also. Rozsika Parker's (27 December 1945 – 5 November 2010) 1984 book 'The Subversive Stitch: embroidery and the making of the feminine', published by The Women's Press, inspired exhibitions such as the UK created “The Subversive Stitch: women and textiles today”, at Cornerhouse, Manchester 27th May to 17th July 1988 and “The Subversive Stitch: embroidery in women's lives 1300-1900”, at The Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester 27th May - 30th July 1988.

The exhibition was research and selected by Pennina Barnett. Barnett is a founding editor of the Berg publication Textile: Journal of Cloth and Culture and senior lecturer at Goldsmith College.

Fiber PHILADELPHIA / The Other Philadelphia Story: A Prequel

During the spring of 2008, the city of brotherly love became a Mecca for fiber art enthusiasts. Artists, collectors, curators, and a curious public came to see, to learn, to enjoy what could be described as a cornucopia of visual delights.

A symposium at the University of the Arts entitled Materiality + Meaning coupled with an exhibition Contemporary Korean Fiber Art anchored the events, which ranged as far south as Delaware and Maryland and north to the Reading Museum in Pennsylvania that hosted the traveling Hot House exhibition from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The breadth and scope of the gallery and museum exhibitions was awesome!

Sonya Clark Split Ends Plastic 144” x 65” 2007 at the at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art photographer: DCCA
In early April, both the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) and the Surface Design Association (SDA) jointly sponsored the Breaking New Ground symposium in Wayne, Pennsylvania that was joined with other inspirational exhibitions. This symposium concluded what was a broad look at what the fiber art movement had achieved nationally and globally.

Let’s start this review with Center City Philadelphia and because there is so much to see and think about, we will try to be succinct and yet include as much as possible.

Read more at fQ aroundtown Blog Jan, 25 2012  ..
The Other Philadelphia Story: A Prequel
submitted by Carol Westfall
Rachek Mica Wiess "Sagging Ellipse (after Richard Serra)" 2011, Hand woven manila rope and sissal twine and wrought iron fixtures, dimensions  variable. Outside/Inside the Box
Crane Arts Building, Icebox Project Space

Get in a Car, on a plane or a bus and go to Philadelphia


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