Diversity is on the agenda as artists from around the world convene for 19th Fiberart International
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"Divalia" is a knitted and sewn sculpture by Bronx artist Reina Mia Brill.
For "Lady of the Wood III," Boulder, Colo., artist Carol Watkins fused hand-dyed cotton fabric, old and original photographs, rayon threads, beads and sequins.
In September the jurors arrived from Toronto, New York City and Kyoto, Japan. They met one another and then sat down to a slide show of more than 1,500 artworks that pulsed in front of them in a four-second-per-image rhythm as they watched in silence.
Then they broke for food and socializing, while their minds began to order and evaluate the task ahead. At the end of three days, and much more slide viewing, those submissions from 608 artists would be reduced to 93 works by 94 artists, representing 14 countries -- still the largest Fiberart International to date.
Friday night the exhibition opens with simultaneous public receptions at the Society for Contemporary Craft and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Approximately 57 exhibiting artists are expected to attend, from across the United States and as far away as Norway, Japan, Lithuania, Canada, the Netherlands and Italy.
And after the doors close on it for the final time in Pittsburgh, "Fiberart International 2007" will find new audiences as it travels to The Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte, N.C.; and to The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia, in Charleston.
Not bad at all for an exhibition produced by an organization of local artists -- members of the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh -- and by volunteer labor (approximately 70 people have worked on this exhibition to date).
This is the 19th Fiberart International, a biennial that as of this year will be presented triennially to allow for the work involved in pulling off the growing exhibition as well as to accommodate the show's travel schedule, an additional facet begun in 2004. Through the years the exhibition has attracted critical attention -- including coverage by national magazines devoted to the medium, submissions from around the globe, and the input of jurors of the caliber of David McFadden, chief curator and vice president for programs and collection, Museum of Arts and Design (formerly the American Craft Museum), New York.
The jurors for Fiberart International 2007 are artists Dorothy Caldwell and Naomi Kobayashi, and Lois Moran, recently retired editor-in-chief of American Craft magazine.
Caldwell, an American who lives near Toronto, exhibits, lectures and teaches internationally, and is a founding member of the Textile Dyers and Printers Association in Canada. Kobayashi has exhibited five times at the Biennale International de la Tapisserie in Lausanne, Switzerland, and was awarded the Gold Medal at the Fourth International Textile Triennial in Lodz, Poland, in 1981. Moran, who serves as vice president for North America on the World Crafts Council Executive Committee, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., in 1993.
JURORS DEFINE THE MIX
Seattle artist Timea Tihanyi created her 4-foot high "Andrea's Tree" from synthetic felt.
Frasdorf, Germany, artist Susanne Hepfinger's "Festivity" comprises a weft of cut painted fabric and dyed flax threads for the warp.
Exhibition co-directors Janet Bass and Patty Murphy say that when there's such a diverse body of art to consider, having more than one juror works much better, even though that option is more expensive and more difficult to arrange. With one juror, the show "tends to have a theme," Bass explains.
These jurors wanted a wide range of media to be represented, as well as techniques, Bass and Murphy say. To allow for larger representation, the jurors were "adamant" about limiting selected works to one per artist, a different approach from the 2004 exhibition, they say.
Kobayashi is the first foreign juror to serve, which adds another dimension to the process.
Coming from Japan, Bass says, "Naomi brought a whole other background and sensibility," leading to the inclusion of some works that perhaps wouldn't otherwise have been in the show. Kobayashi requested an interpreter be present during the jurying, for technical questions and explanations. And she was uncomfortable with jurying by slides, rather than the actual objects or at least samples of submitting artists' work, until Moran agreed to return as a jury representative to inspect final submissions and verify that they were the works shown in the slides and of the expected quality.
"The works that were selected were forceful and possessed a high degree of completeness that conveys a mastery of their techniques," Kobayashi writes in her juror statement. Among those, she notes, is Kelly Thompson's woven "Peninsula Strips," the Best of Show awardee, its long horizontal panels "reminiscent of Japanese picture scrolls."
Moran writes that as a juror "I seek out and respond to works that evoke feeling and thought, as well as those that in their simplicity give the viewer license to dream and wonder in a private way. I found much to satisfy my search."
And Caldwell was "delighted to discover work that was subtle, elegant and restrained as well as work full of humor, tongue-in-cheek wit and offbeat ideas."
BUTTONHOLES AND BOMBS
The differences in juror's outlook and the way each interprets notions held in common translate into the eclectic quality of the exhibition. The artworks range from refined tapestries to beaded or stitched sculptural pieces that push notions of art and of craft; from the blatantly beautiful to somber reflections upon social or political themes.
Briton Thompson's narrative landscape, accomplished with a computer-assisted jacquard loom, stretches across several feet of gallery wall, while Canadian Dorie Millerson's needlepoint lace "attachments II," a woman leaning towards a child standing near a fence, is an intimate 5 by 3 1/2 inches.
Phoenix artist Christy Puetz's cartoonish "Magdalena," a diminutive beaded spider sporting a big-eyed doll head, stands in contrast to "Distant Echoes," a 5 1/2-foot high triptych by Ingrid Bachmann, of Montreal, that begins with a cloud of gray smoke and ends with the suggestion of a body lying in a street.
Besides seed pearls, Tucson, Ariz., resident Scott Allen Ellegood's portrait, "Pearl Necklace," is made up of multicolored, hand stitched buttonholes; Philadelphian Mi-Kyoung Lee's untitled wall installation comprises rubber bands and nails; and Australian Giselle Penn's "The Rarity" is a 7 1/2-foot high, floral patterned, hand felted "hide."
And that's just a sampler.
For such a large undertaking, there were remarkably few glitches, Bass and Murphy say.
There were the half dozen artworks that were sent to the Guild's post office box instead of the official receiving address; Ariadna Donner's tapestry that got stuck somewhere between customs officials in Finland and the United States, which inspired a grateful artist to e-mail a drawing of St. George slaying the dragon when the piece was finally negotiated into the country; and the artist who, after some Guild detective work when her art didn't show up and she couldn't be reached, was found to have been in an accident that temporarily affected her short-term memory.
But everything came together, and as the works were being installed last week it appeared that for yet another year Fiberart International was going very well indeed.
'Fiberart International 2007'
Feliksas Jakubauskas, of Vilnius, Lithuania, wove "Light From East, Sheet Pulsation" using silk and linen.Where: Society for Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St., Strip District, and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside.
When: Opening reception 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday at both locations. Exhibition continues through Aug. 19.
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, both locations; noon-5 p.m. Sunday at PCA.
Admission: SCC, free; PCA, $5 suggested donation.
Residency: FI2007 is sponsoring a fiber artist-in-residence, Tina Brewer, at the Allegheny Traditional Academy Elementary School on the North Side. Works produced by the students will be exhibited May 19 at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
Focus on Fiber: Related events and exhibitions at a number of venues, from Pittsburgh to points in Ohio, are listed at www.fiberartinternational.org.
Among those Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh members (FI2007 organizers) are showing in are "Vessel," Brewhouse Space 101, through May 5 (412-381-7767); "Quilt Art Celebration, Northland Public Library, Saturday through June 29 (412-366-8100); and "Focus on 5," Sweetwater Center for the Arts, through April 30 (412-741-4405).
First Published April 11, 2007 4:54 pm