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She sews pretty–not

Two very different species of stitchery crossed my path recently, and the differences speak volumes about the differences in the two galleries where the work exhibited.
ahn, julianne
At Space 1026, Julianne Ahn showed embroidered images on rough, hand-made felt that looked a little mysterious–maybe padding for clothes or furniture. The embroidery was bold and rough, the images surprising scenes of modern life–people sitting on the Kyoto Metro viewed from an angle so the figures were anonymous, a full-figure outline portrait of a young boy named Sebastian, a club scene on open mic night, a city view (left, “Kyoto Metro”).
greene, talia
greeneaugmentedbee6Ahn’s work was part of a group show including pumped-up specimen portraits of bees by Talia Greenee, clown Xerox-transfer prints more notable for their method than their content by Candace Vivian, tiny, sweet quilts and woodblock prints by Katie Baldwin (I’ve seen better work from her elsewhere), and collage and assemblage by Brielle Duym (right, Greene’s “Augmented Bee #6”).

What made Ahn’s work so interesting was its toughness and sharp observation in a medium associated with femininity and decoration. It was work chronicling the time and culture in which she is working (left, Ahn’s “Kyoto 2”).
san chirico, joanie
In contrast, stichery and applique by Joanie San Chirico at Pringle Gallery had references to cultures in which she is not working–pre-industrial Japan, ancient Rome and ancient Egypt, for example. Chirico may be mining the past, (she has a series made with pieces of old kimonos, a couple of catacombs pieces, an obelisk) but the work is visually modern, with its undermined rectangles and abstracted imagery.

sanchiricokimonofragmentssunMy favorite was “Kimono Fragments: Sun” (image right) which stood out for its prominent hand-stitchery and its color. But all in all, pretty trumped meaning, and the references to the past and distant cultures couldn’t pour in quite enough content to lift this work above nice craft.

Also at Pringle, pretty encaustic paintings by Karen Nielsen-Fried, the images likable and unsurprising.