One way to keep up with what's new in local, national and international art scenes is to read articles and reviews in prominent arts magazines and newspapers. Even better is to see the actual work in an exhibition.
Within the art/craft sphere, one of the best of those is Fiberart International, which originates in Pittsburgh. Begun in 1961, the now triennial exhibition organized by the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh is at the Society for Contemporary Craft and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
The 2010 edition maintains the freshness the show is known for with inventive work that speaks the language of contemporary expression while maintaining craft commitment to technical proficiency.
If there is a dominant theme, it is interiority -- expression suggesting a personal narrative, psychological or physical. Each brings a new way of looking and thinking about those we share the planet with and, ultimately, about ourselves. Most shocking of such works is Erin Endicott's "Healing Sutra #3" -- a combination of red thread, walnut stain and altered antique tablecloth that suggests a bloodied child's dress. It won Best of Show. A close second is Meredith Grimsley's embroidered figural "(Near) Death by a Thousand (Self Inflicted) Cuts."
The solemn woman of Magali Rizzo's embroidered "Melancholia" and crouching woman of Andrea Donnelly's "Quietly, Quietly" are disengaged but maintain strong presence.
Katherine Webb's cluttered embroidered home scene, "Everyday," and Lisa Lee Peterson's five-paneled jacquard loom-woven "Five Generations of Virtue" depict specific families, but most viewers may also relate.
Poignant and vulnerable are the six "Hearts for LM," made of recycled blue jeans by Anne Wolf, who created poetic earthworks here a couple of decades ago and now teaches at the California College of the Arts, Oakland.
A broad expressive range is captured in the works, from Swede Ann Nyberg's bright and jazzy woven abstract "Open Heart," to Korean Jeeun Kim's subtle, message-bearing, felted mulberry paper shoes, "a pair," to Pittsburghers Michelle Browne and Leslie Golomb's mysterious "Betsy in the Forest."
Material also varies widely, as with the suspended, ghostly, full-sized figures of Brigitte Amarger's "Corps Etrangers (Strange Bodies/Humanoids)," made of X-rays and medical scans, and Emily Barletta's 36 tiny embroidered "Scabs" tacked to the wall within individual plastic bags.
The artists, surprisingly in 2010 still mostly women, also address other current issues, including politics and the environment, as with Claire Taylor's cautionary "New Natural Occurrence," a plastic fast-food lid embroidered to suggest encroaching moss.
Technology as subject, medium and form coalesce engagingly in Kathy Weaver's "Damaged Morphology," of satin with embedded video.
Meticulousness and aesthetics combine beautifully in Kathleen Loomis' "Postage 1: Regatta," hundreds of small quilted cotton rectangles suspended as a unit; Jan Myers-Newbury's quilted shibori "Wildfire"; Pamela Fitzsimons' "Skin/Eucalyptus," stitched, plant-dyed silk and wool; and Barbara Wisnoski's multi-pieced "field" and "folded circle (redeeming vermilion)."
Holding my attention were Hannah Streefkerk's "fixing the landscape," digitally altered photographs of broken rocks which she mends with lengths of yarn, and Alison Mercer's "Broody Girls," 17 magical doll-like figures, hauntingly nostalgic and yet contemporarily feminist.
That's just a sampling of this very worthy exhibition selected by jurors Vibeke Riisberg, textile designer and associate professor, Designskolen Kolding, Denmark; Mary Ruth Smith, professor of art, Baylor University, Waco, Texas; and Rebecca A.T. Stevens, author and consulting curator, The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C.
It will travel to the Memorial Art Gallery of Rochester, N.Y., and the San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design.
"Fiberart" continues through Aug. 22. An illustrated catalog is $25. SCC, 2100 Smallman St., Strip District, is open Monday through Saturday; admission is free (412-261-7003). PCA, 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside, is open Tuesday through Sunday; $5 suggested admission (412-361-0873).
A grander than usual evening is planned for the opening reception of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh 100th Annual Exhibition from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday at Carnegie Museum of Art. The event is free and public (412-622-3131).
"Rooted in Tradition: Art Quilts From the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum" and "Cutting Our Own Paths: Contemporary Works by Paper Artists" open with a reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg. Free but reservations appreciated at 724-837-1500, ext. 29, or www.wmuseumaa.org.
The first ever 2-Minute Film Festival at Carnegie Museum of Art on Thursday drew more than 200 people and was so successful that the museum is considering making it a regular event. The majority of the films screened were imaginative, topical, funny, quirky and often all of those things. The winners of the People's Choice vote, Cecilia Belatrao, and Matthias Grabmair and Zumrut Imamoglu, of Pittsburgh, were awarded museum memberships for their "A Brief History of Daily Transactions" (the festival theme was "A Brief History of ..."). Capturing the next five places were "Wyoming" by Jason Georgiades (Pittsburgh); "A Brief History of The National Road" by Amanda Barbara, with her students (Hopwood), "On the Way to the Theatre, We Egged a Trans Am: A Brief History of the Construction of Male Identity" by Nathaniel Sullivan (Syracuse, N.Y.), "First Firing" by Kelly Oliver and Keary Rosen (Raritan, N.J.) and "Fantastica" by Bobbi Williams (Pittsburgh).
A sell-out crowd of 100 joined 15 musicians in an euphonious debut Saturday of "A Generous Act" at the Mattress Factory. "Perhaps the most intriguing element of the evening," an attendee said, "was watching the performers, who did not know each other two weeks ago, interact in such a seamless, intimate and brilliantly musical way." CD and vinyl recordings of music created during the residency are in production. A museum exhibition contains archival material documenting the residency as well as videos of the recording process.
Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: email@example.com or 412-263-1925.