Color, shape, texture, concepts and meaning can be achieved through a variety of mediums.
Textile artists, through their chosen materials, have long held the strings of one of the most powerful and enduring vehicles to share visual research.
“The Ardent Thread”, the current exhibition on display until September 5 at the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve Gallery in Cleveland features the work of several experienced textile artists whose work varies in color, shape and texture but has the common thread of ‘an artist who is skilled with their materials.
Individually, the artists chosen for inclusion are exemplary. However, the “flow” of the show is a bit choppy as some of the artists’ pieces fit together better than others.
It’s understandable that this could happen, as the exhibition gives the impression that the curator expressly wishes to include many of the region’s most powerful textile artists. However, northeast Ohio is home to several people who fit this description and including a little less work would have led to a stronger exhibit given the size of the gallery space.
That said, each of these artists deserves an individual exhibition in any gallery; to have the chance to see some of their works presented in the same space is a great opportunity.
“Color inspires me, especially the tribal colors of African cultures and their connection to Mother Earth,” said Myrya Johnson, a local and national award-winning artist for her quilts and wearable fine art, whose work is included in the exhibition.
This fact is reflected in a large quilt piece and a series of dolls created by Johnson. Dolls are cheerful expressions of color and pattern, as well as objects that have their own story. Like many dolls, they offer a familiar connection that the majority of us can relate to. Sculpturally, the pieces are presented as physical manifestations of the individual or as a “larger idea” of the individual represented.
A series of embroidery works by Phyllis Brody are exceptional in their composition.
Inspired by the colorful embroidery used for clothing and home décor she encountered on a trip to Uzbekistan years ago, these intensely crafted, vibrant and expressive works have the gestural quality of abstract painting while recounting a rhythm and a texture which is akin to a visual expression of music. Indeed, these works vibrate at such a frequency that you can almost hear them speaking to you and singing to you while looking at them.
“Delivery”, a large weave by artist Jessica Pinsky, is strikingly powerful. Ranging in colors ranging from off white and pink to blood red, the weave is a prime example of the painterly and sculptural power that a weaving can have.
Inspired by the endangerment and extinction of plant species brought about by catastrophic climate change, Rebecca Cross’s work suggests a future where plant species of our time exist only in a “preserved” state.
The mixed media pieces feature silk forms drawn in part through etched plexiglass that features designs derived from the shadows created by the sculptural forms.
“Everything I do involves exploring memory,” Cross said.
This important aspect of the manufacturing process helps give the artwork its attractive texture and shape.
These are haunting works that get you thinking and make you wonder what you are looking at. They also cast wonderful shadows on the gallery walls and that is part of what helps make them so unique and exciting to watch.
Ron Shelton’s work is full of color, movement and light. The artist made hats and coats mostly from plastic. The work was inspired by artists around the world who use this unsustainable material in their work.
They are fun, joyful and moving sculptural expressions that have an ecological connotation. They also grab your attention because the coats are on a mannequin and the “hats” are hanging from the ceiling. The broad and gestural forms rise from the floor to the ceiling of the gallery space.
Textiles are among the oldest materials we use. The innovative expressions of these types of materials in art help push the limited boundaries of what we often think of when thinking about what we might find in a gallery or museum.
“The Ardent Thread” is a great way to explore the research of some local textile artists who use traditional and non-traditional techniques in their studio practice.
What: “The fiery thread”
Where: Western Reserve Gallery Artist Archives, 1834 E. 123rd St., Cleveland
When: until September 5
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday
Information: www.ArtistsArchives.org, 216-721-9020, [email protected]