Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Threads of Inspiration

Inland Seas Maritime Museum
I was asked to write a guest blog last week for Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed With Needles on the subject of entering juried exhibitions, and obliged happily. Having been involved in all facets of juried exhibitions, as an artist entering a show, a juror selecting artwork for a show, and a curator managing the show, I have a lot to say on the subject. My comments only just scratched the surface. Check it out if you’re interested, and post your comments or questions.

One thing I really love about working in the fiber arts field is how supportive the community of artists, curators, and galleries is. The support and interconnectedness is only enhanced by the amazing growth of websites and blogs. When I was first starting out twenty-five years ago, I read everything I could get my hands on, and worked really hard to develop my work. I set aside Mondays as my 'paperwork day', (oh, to have only one day a week of paperwork again) and used that time in part to fill out entry forms and prepare slides to enter. When I moved back to Ohio from Philadelphia, I began to meet a larger group of artists, first in northeastern Ohio, and then around the state and the country. Through organizations such as the Art Quilt Network I found support and mentoring that buoy me to this day. I feel obligated and honored to pass along the favor.

There are still a ton of artists who work with textiles in northeastern Ohio. As I wrote about in my book, Ohio has long been an epicenter for fiber art, especially since World War II. We are lucky to have high profile regional organizations such as the Textile Art Alliance and galleries devoted to fiber art, such as Ginko Gallery in Oberlin, Ohio. Attending an exhibition opening, as I did last Friday night, is usually a chance to say hello to fellow artists, who always come out to see new work and to be supportive of the artists exhibiting.
The opening for Threads of Inspiration was held at the Inland Seas Maritime Museum in Vermilion, Ohio. Located next to the historical museum and right on the coast of Lake Erie, it was a lovely setting. The artwork will be on view through May 25th.

Although a small, invitational exhibit, the one room gallery space was big enough to hold a representative sample of the eight regional artists represented.

The organizer, Bay Village artist Christy Gray, showed several pieces from her water tower series. Her small framed pieces are quite intimate, embroidered with a spare horizon line on hand-dyed fabrics and quirky, oddly animated water towers. Her larger wall quilts, though still exhibiting very clean lines, have developed into more complex compositions over the past year or so. I took a double take at the overlaid leaves, unsure from a distance whether they were appliquéd or disperse dyed. Her fused appliqué technique is so fully integrated into the surface, the layering is only apparent on close inspection.

Artwork by Christy Gray, from her watertower series

Cleveland artist Christine Mauersberger’s work has taken a detour from the more conceptual pieces shown last year at the Stocker Center gallery in Elyria. The works shown in this exhibit are immensely engaging, embroidered pieces developed from dozens and dozens of ideas originally worked out in her sketchbook. They are quirky and primal at the same time, and oddly evocative of ancient textiles with their rhythmic pace. She calls them “maps.”

Another Bay Village artist, Si-Yun Chang, showed the only three dimensional works in the show. Created from Japanese paper covered with writing, the artist creates woven basket-like forms. Because they are not brightly colored, the flecks of writing still visible after the papers are woven and shaped create a gentle, beating rhythm in the pieces. Very satisfying.

Sculptural work by Si-Yun Chang

Artist Marty Young lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. A long time quilter, she recently has been inspired by rediscovered childhood photos. The work she has on exhibit in Threads of Inspiration strays from her typically larger Japanese-inspired, visually quiet wall quilts, instead incorporating hand colored black and white image transfers and brightly colored vintage fabrics, adding to the nostalgic feel of the work.

Left, artwork by Marty Young; Christy Gray's work on the right

There is much more work of interest to see, and more for me to write about in my next post. Go see the show if you can. It would be a great way to end an afternoon at the beach.


  1. I read your article on entering juried shows and think it is excellent; it really applies to all fiels of art. I am often asked by people what to expect when entering a juried show--well, it's anything. You really need to know th background of the show, and whoever the judge is will have a bearing. People cannot be sebsitive at this point.
    Living in Indiana, which seems worlds away, you cannot realize how fortunate you are to be in an area where the growth of fiber work is so large and amazing. Opportunities are slim here, so for anyone who lives in an actively supportive arts community---get your work out there or get yourself out to look at other artists! Take advantage of what you have!!!

  2. I loved reading this review. I'm sad that I missed this show, but now I feel like I was almost there, thanks to you, Gayle.

    Love, Pomme in Alberta