For the exhibit, Reading Between the Lines, Karen Reimer writes of her work:
"My recent work examines the relationships between beauty, value and meaning by exploiting the tensions between copy and original, object and process and fine art and domestic craft. It demonstrates the out-of-control nature of language and the provisional quality of meaning.
The embroideries are laboriously produced copies of pieces of text taken from sources ranging from great books to candy wrappers ... Of course, in the case of the 'trash' pieces (fragments, product packaging, etc.), the original that is copied has no recognized value to begin with. Only the copy has value. In this way, the trash pieces function differently from the book pages. In the embroidered book pages, the illegibility of the text poses a loss. It is no longer possible to be certain of its meaning. The embroidered text teeters on the edge of legibility, relying heavily on pattern recognition, personal interpretation and guesswork. In attempting to decipher the ambiguous text, the reader projects him/herself into it. The piece functions like a Rorschach blot"
In the series Boundary Troubles, Reimer explores the meaning of boundaries at many levels: physical, visual, spiritual.
"In her new series of pattern-based work, Reimer plays off the implied endlessness of pattern by embroidering the figures of one fabric onto another. Sewing together pieces of fabric whose patterns have differing, sometimes conflicting, cultural associations of class, taste, gender, fashion era, and other domestic or social territories, the competing logic of each pattern dominates, transmutes, blends in or disappears. These mergings can be read as metaphors of infection or invasion, or as attempts to make wholes out of disparate parts. In any case, the results are inevitably incomplete and unresolved rather than neat coherent syntheses, and, as with much of Reimer's work, the amount of labor invested raises the question of whether such attempts are misguided or optimistic.
Reimer continues her investigation of pattern in another series based on notebook pages. Whereas much of her earlier work focused on re-creations of text, now the "text" becomes the sewn lines on the empty page, making the visual structure for the writing into the writing itself. Boundary Troubles is another exercise in order gone amok, order that doesn't know its boundaries, limitations or purpose."
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.
Parisian fiber artist, Fanny Viollet, creates Contemporary textile art based on text and assemblages of embroidery and diverse fabrics. She expands the materials and uses of fiber arts in multiple directions. She has won a Hermes design prize in the International Contest
of Hat Designers 2003 for her hat created from colorful candy and yogurt wrappers stitched together.
At the International Quilt Festival 2002 in Houston, Viollet exhibited 229 Couleurs à coudre, à écrire, à broder, en toute liberté, a 51 inch square quilt consisting of "free-motion embroidered words on a transparent vinyl backing. Using similar materials, the British Young Embroiderers site features images of lifesize dresses that Viollet created from "used waste plastic bags, food packages, fabric flowers and free machine embroidery with multi-coloured threads."
Seaton Hall library, in 2000, held a solo exhibition of Viollet's work. Their site offers insight into the thought behind the stitches: using the feminist tradition as a springboard, "Viollet tackles the male-dominated history of art in pieces such as Palette and Les Cartes Postales Brodees (Embroidered Postcards), which satirically question the objectification of women and the exploitation of art in museum shops. Other work such as Triptych, are more abstract with hundreds of names of colors from the famous DMC cataloguea seamstress' Bible in Europe" Selected images from the exhibit illuminate the diversity of Violette's output.
A web site that is almost entirely in Japanese, with a small amount of French (and therefore completely inscrutable to me) offers a glimpse of a mail art exchange between Viollet and Yukiko Og______. The works encompass sewn, painted and drawn two and three dimensional images which are attached to a variety of backings. The series begins with Courrier du coeur by Viollet and continues for the next five pages (view by clicking the 'next' button.)
Eirian Short is a British embroidery legend whose pinaccle seems to have occurred prior to the advent of the internet. One of the few pages that I could find of her work features an embroidered landscape with crows and a short biography - given first in Gaellic then in English:
"Eirian Short was born in Fishguard in 1924. She studied sculpture and embroidery at Goldsmiths College, London. From 1953 to 1985 she lectured at various London art colleges, while developing her own work and exhibiting widely."
A student newsletter from 2001 provides a bit more depth as to the significance of Short's work: "Admitting to a vulgar side of her nature, she works with subjects and imagery, which arise from a sense of necessity and a commitment to an inner integrity in terms of idea and concept. Eirian avoids any danger of good taste, working from a cycle of subjects, which have recurred over the years. Her subjects focus over a wide span of ideas, although most are based on the creatures and landscape of her home in Wales.
The great Black Crows of the early '80's were depicted as a crucifixion, and exhibited in a 62 Group exhibition at the RIBA galleries in Central London. Other, equally controversial subjects followed over the years, the snakes series shown in the On the Edge exhibition of 1998 at the Knitting and Stitching Show, ranged from a series of exquisite, detailed drawings to a huge, padded and sculpted snake which encircled a mirror....
A committed hand embroiderer, Eirian uses thread and stitch as a painter would use paint and brushes, each stitch a mark of colour, and in turn multiplying and building until it has filled the canvas. Her stitch language is simple and straightforward, straight stitches, detached chain stitch and French knots. Working with crewel wool means that she is able to vary the number of threads in the needle and mix colours - much as a painter would mix colours in a palette. Every scrap of the ground fabric is filled with stitch, which creates a smooth even surface of coloured wool, the surface values and qualities created not with texture, but in the way that she is able to modulate the light/dark contrasts of tonal values." (pages 20-22)
One of the great drawbacks to the Internet is the lack of information on older, not-so-fashionable people/issues/art. Short's books are still available through libraries and used book stores, but sadly not much can be found online.