Megan Whitmarsh creates pop culture modern embroideries of yetis, space travellers and battling elf maidens. The size is small: 3" X 5" to 8" X 8". Whitmarsh draws from her background as an art school painting major to bring a contemporary sensibility to embroidery. The backgrounds are stretched plain fabric. The imagery creates a sense of alienation from the real world and escape to a world of pop culture fantasy. Whitmarsh further explores the emotional isolation of being a yeti in the short film, The Life of a Yeti.
"Whitmarsh's work primarily consists of embroidered depictions of Yetis, Elves and various pop icons. These characters are sewn in numerous arrangements over monochromatic stretched fabrics. Scenes include socializing Yetis, people from the future chased by geometric shapes, or Elf-girls chatting on cell phones. For her first show with Sixtyseven Whitmarsh presents her most recent embroideries, a series of drawings and a video entitled 'The Life of a Yeti'. Whitmarsh’s choice of medium bring to mind the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1970’s while other elements in her work relate Minimalism and Pop Art. Since her cast of characters is sewn over flat backgrounds, the pieces resemble color field paintings with little specks of color. A closer look reveals a tiny cigarette held by a Yeti or a golden necklace worn by an Elf. Some pieces include more familiar references: The band Kiss or Darth Vader can be found inhabiting a monochrome… Other pieces include art historical inserts: A Yeti next to a Franz Kline painting, King Kong staring at a Robert Indiana sculpture and so on." from "Forest Logic" at Sixtyseven gallery.
"For moonboots and barrettes, elves and cigarettes, Whitmarsh will present her exquisite embroidery on fabric pieces that combine this traditional medium with depictions of elements in pop-culture such as yetis and battling elf girls. While the size of her work ranges from small to large, her characters remain tiny and detailed, forcing the viewer to literally peer into her worlds. Sumpter, part of the new school of illustration, will be exhibiting paintings on paper using gouache, ink and watercolor. Her work has been described as "…delicate ink lines, and subtle attention to detail complement and subvert the lightness of her drawings' and her 'icon-like imagery resembles....children's books found in antique stores, but with a modernist composition and adult subject matter'. Megan Whitmarsh graduated with a BFA in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1993. She completed her MFA studies at the University of New Orleans in 1997 with the aid of a full fellowship. Upon graduating she migrated to Williamsburg, Brooklyn where she magnified the role of embroidery in her art. She makes a comic 'Snow Monkeys' and various merchandise under the moniker 'Tiny Industries'." from not starving artists
Donna Sharrett has created emotionally evocative, mysterious works that pull the viewer beyond daily life into a deeper level of time and relationship with the world.
"Trained as a painter, Ms. Sharrett, 41, used to produce abstract landscapes. But more recently she has created an unusual variety of needlework constructions that have caught the attention of collectors and curators. Mementos, made of dried rose petals joined in elaborate patterns by lacelike sections of meticulously hand-stitched, artificial hair, resemble big doilies. They bring to mind objects from folk or religious rituals, although at first glance a viewer may not be able to determine their purpose." New York Times, 2000
Sharrett began this work following the death of her mother from cancer.
"Sharrett developed her work in a response to personal tragedy. Several years ago, while nursing her terminally ill mother, Sharrett returned to the needlework processes learned in her childhood. The way back to needlework was bound up in two painful arenas: the desire to find something in which her mother could be the teacher -- an attempt to maintain some aspect of the normal hierarchy within a mother/daughter relationship; and the desire to find a way to transcend time, to fill the bottomless days of worry and waiting."
Surface Design, 2001
"Acknowledging the inherent human propensity to assign symbolic meaning to materials in nature, rose petals, rose beads, and dirt (all laden with religious and cultural symbolism) are used to create the works." Donna Sharrett
The article, The Moment; After Past Post Modernism, Art Finds A New Soul By Edward M. Gomez addresses why the interest in this sort of artwork today, after decades of minimalist and post-modern art:
"What distinguishes the work of artists who are not primarily motivated by postmodernist theory, among other characteristics, are its attention to craftsmanship and its allusions to the human body, to animal life and to the relationship between human beings and nature. Often, such art also evokes or directly addresses spiritual themes; sometimes it reacts against the techno obsessions of the digital age or attempts to 'warm up' impersonal high-tech media even as it employs them in its making. Much of it seems to spring from a narrative impulse.... In both commercial-gallery and museum settings, her 'Mementos' have attracted viewers who have found their allusions to death more intriguing than repellent. 'They make people remember something, even if they don’t know exactly what it is,' says Sharrett. Sharrett says that 'the repetition in this work and the way it relates to so many cultures with their repeating customs, rules and cycles' is more meaningful to her than the abstract paintings she used to make. She adds: 'Maybe there's something very spiritual and necessary about this kind of repetition, or else we wouldn't have been doing it for generations.'"
A late addition: Donna Sharrett's work will be included in the Collage: Signs & Surfaces show at Pavel Zoubok Gallery in NY.
"It's the same I've always offered: just do the work. And don't try to figure out what other people want. Figure out what YOU want your work to be, and what you want it to say. Where imagination is concerned, the average American is shortchanged--she's been dulled into quiet compliance by the forces of conformity. Inventive people (artists and scientists among them) think outside the box--that's where they're most comfortable.
Quiltmaking has historically been an art of conformity. I think it's high time that we relegate that fact to quilt history, and move this art form fully into the 21st century where it should take its place alongside other exploratory and creative media."
"A life sized rendering of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper constructed from 20,736 spools of thread strung onto aluminum ball chain. When seen with the aid of optical devices, the spools of thread coalesce into realistic images of Christ and his disciples..
When seen with the naked eye, the spools of thread appear as an abstract arrangement of multi-colored blocks/3D pixels, further abstracted by the fact that The Last Supper imagery is upside down and backwards. The clear acrylic viewing spheres rotate the imagery 180 degrees back to the correct orientation and condense the individual pixels/spools of thread into recognizable images. In addition, the spheres offer monocular views of the work, accentuating the illusion of 3 dimension as it exists in flat paintings. Leonardo da Vinci understood that the illusion of 3D in paintings was derived from monocular, not binocular, vision." This is the description of After The Last Supper, 2005. The work measures 85"h x 29'w. Yes, 29 feet wide.
"The imagery is derived from photographs, which I digitally manipulate and translate into low-tech pixels," says Sperber. "I am interested in the effects of digital technology on issues such as what constitutes reality, the effects of scale on perception and how the eyes prioritize. While many contemporary artists utilize digital technology to create high-tech works, I strive to 'dumb-down' technology by utilizing mundane materials and low-tech, labor-intensive assembly processes."
..."I often install the work so that viewers cannot back up sufficiently to see the photographic images directly," she says. "The photo-realistic imagery is only visible when seen reflected in strategically-placed convex or cylindrical mirrors, through reversed binoculars or viewing spheres. This shift in perception functions as a dramatic mechanism to present the idea that there is no one truth or reality, emphasizing subjective reality versus absolute truth."
Her inspiration for doing this manipulation? From The Wichita Eagle:
"Sperber got the idea of using spools of thread to make art in 1999 after seeing paintings by Chuck Close at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Close is famous for large portraits which are created by painting a grid of hundreds of small color-filled squares.
Sperber fed an image of a lake into her computer, then blew it up 1600 percent so that the image became a series of tiny, separate blocks of color, or pixels.
She then matched each of those pixels to a shade of sewing thread made by the Coats & Clark company, ordered 5,760 spools in the various shades, and then strung them on plastic tubing to recreate the original picture.
She discovered the reverse binoculars reduced the scale of the 6-foot by 10-foot curtain of spools when she was trying to determine if she had strung the colors in the right order. Just like the gallery at the Ulrich, her New York studio was confined; she could not get far enough away to let the picture come into focus.
"I couldn't tell if it was working and this was the first piece, so I was getting a little concerned," Sperber said. "Did I now own 5,760 spools of thread that I should now be selling at the flea market? And there was a pair of binoculars in the studio and I picked them up and flipped them around just to see if I could see, and I literally went, 'Wow!' "
Sperber has documented all of this magic on her web site. Her works are not limited to thread, but include compositions of marker caps, map tacks and chenille stems.
Thanks to Kim LaPolla and the quiltart mailing list for citing this artist!
"Have you ever wanted to ride an Electrolux motorcycle? Or wear a dress made out of bicycle tires? Discover how east coast artists are crafting everyday trash into extraordinary works of art in Trashformations East. New England thrift is taken to a new extreme in this exhibition featuring work by 112 artists who use found objects or recycled materials in unique ways. These artists find creative uses for other people’s garbage, making lingerie out of soda cans, jewelry from expired coupons and furniture out of everything from skis to lawn mowers. "
Curator Lloyd Herman, founding director of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, comments on art made from trash: "Why do artists choose the cast-offs of others with which to make art? Some are attracted to the colorful patterning of grocery store packaging, or magazine photos, or playing cards. Others like the texture of old shingles or chromed car trim. And some will see in the form of pencils, bedpans or clock hands new possibilities for them in art. Sometimes a shape will remind them of something else, but almost all makers like found objects for their art because such discards are usually free.
There are long traditions in America, and elsewhere, of castoffs in both mainstream sculpture and in folk art. We need think only of the uses that Louise Nevelson made of ten pins, wood shoe forms, and other familiar wood shapes in her wall assemblages. Or the witty toys made from coffee can tins for which Alexander Calder was revered. The creative re-use that Robert Rauschenberg, John Chamberlain, and Mark DiSuvero brought to refuse also come to mind."
Boston.com has a slide show of a few of the objects on display. The textile / fiber art works include:
Curator Lloyd Herman comments on a few of the fiber artworks:
"Lace-trimmed handkerchiefs may remind us of our grandmothers, setting us up for wistful references to a suggested past....
Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch's "Trashy Lingerie" -skimpy undergarments woven of soft drink can strips-would be pretty uncomfortable to wear. While revealing and sexually provocative, this underwear would also function as an impenetrable chastity belt. The mixed message seems to say "desire me, but don't touch me!" Perhaps these undergarments would be worn under Katherine Cobey's "Danger Dress" made of plastic warning tapes used by firemen and police. Another form of "protection" shown here is Diane Savona's "Domestic Armor," a garment made of oven mitts and pot holders.
Alyce Santoro has woven fabric from used music cassette tapes, and has fashioned from it garments that can not only be worn, but played-and have been, by Phish percussionist Jon Fishman, using recordings of his own music and that which has inspired him.
How about clothing a tree? Sarah Hollis Perry has knitted sweaters from recycled plastic bags to give trees a dash of style (if not warmth) with water-repellent color."
The Trashformations East exhibit was inspired by the original 1998 Trashformations show at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington. The 1998 exhibit lives on in book form (upper right). See your local library for a copy; its unfortunately been out of print for years.
Croque choux is a blog by an anonymous woman who reportedly was born in LA and lives in the suburbs of Paris. Well, since she complains about Paris traffic and picking her kid up from school, it seems real enough.
What caught my eye was her dragonfly done with free motion embroidery. Beginning with water soluble plastic and tulle, she built up the stitching until the charming dragon fly emerged. Another dragonfly is made of bead and angelina fiber wings.
Croque choux's fiber arts archive has lots of witty inspiration and links to resources available in Europe. You can find fabric postcards and a needle-felted bear. The Japanese section is not near large enough, but covers the beautiful fabrics and quirky animation that my daughters and I find so addictive. A final ink sends me on to her favorite museum: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
It's the current dream machine: Flat Mode by Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design graduate, Itay Potash. Featherweight fanatics have proven that what any in the sewing world want is a good straight stitch and a machine that doesn't cost a fortune or weigh a ton.
Potash describes his inspiration, "People don't sew for hours at a time anymore. Most people use their machines for quick minor repairs--to hem a pair of pants or to refasten a button."... "Flat Mode has only four buttons: an up/down button, a second for selecting a program, another for setting stitch parameters, and the last for resetting the machine." After learning to sew on an ancient Singer that only went forward (no reverse), I hope that reverse is also an option on the proposed Flat Mode machine.
An intriguing question is how this sewing machine reflects Don Norman's theories of Emotional Design: "Our studies lead us to suspect that just as we might be able to classify products along three dimensions of attractiveness (visceral), functional and usable (behavioral) and high in prestige (reflective), we can also classify people along these dimensions. Visceral level people will be strongly biased toward appearance, behavioral people towards function, usability, and how much the feel in control during use. And Reflective level people (who would seldom admit to be one), are heavily biased by brand name, by prestige, and by the value a product brings to their self-image – hence the sale of high-priced whiskey, watches,, automobiles, and home furnishings."
In his essay, Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better, Norman labels the three categories of design: "aesthetics, usability and practicality". Potash appears to have covered at least two of these three categories in his design. The red minimal design is extremely attractive. The thin fold-away design is highly practical. Now, if they will only release the machine, we can figure out if it actually sews or not.
Karen Kamenetzky's art quilts appear to be a spiritual union between Gustav Klimt and the most exciting parts of botany. Organic cellscapes shimmer in jewel tones. Layers of hand dyed cotton, silk, cheesecloth, yarn, embroidery thread and tulle create layers that create an organic mystery.
Kamenetzky's artist statement reads: "I am a self taught artist. I began creating traditional quilts more than ten years ago but found I resisted following directions. I now dye all my fabric and enjoy playing with color and line. Currently, most of my pieces are inspired by microscopic/cellular and underground imagery. I am fascinated with imagining how hidden parts of the natural world affect the world we see."
A statement for the 2004 Art Quilts/New England show reads: "After viewing various plant cell images, the form of this piece took shape. It depicts an imaginary point of transformative change on a cellular level."
In art quilts, we are often working with planes of pattern and trying to form textures to our experiences and visions. Cut paper collages by Ida Pearle follow a similar path of vision:
"Each collage, cut and glued by hand is primarily composed of Coloraid, a silk-screened artist's paper. Other specialty papers, collected from many different sources, are used to add accents of pattern and texture to the collages. For example, Origami paper is used for clothing and other forms which require patterns. Other papers used, include construction paper, craft paper, wrapping paper, tissue paper, wallpaper, and decorative paper. Materials like string, ribbon, and cloth lend the pieces even greater dimension and texture. Before the cutting begins each collage requires extensive planning and sketching."
Papercutting allows more intricate shapes than the stitched edge would typically permit, hence there is a level of intricacy and detail in the collages not typically found in fiber art. The compositions and use of the picture plane are similar to what fiber artists are working with. A perusal through Pearle's gallery is time well spent. Be sure to click on the individual images. The thumbnail images at the gallery level are often smaller parts of a large composition.