On the Fringe of Fiber at City Hall

sponsored

On the Fringe of Fiber, the fiber show on now view at City Hall is a break-through show for the Art in City Hall program of bringing Philadelphia art into that dim public space. Two things have made the difference.

Martha Savery-Kahn, untitled, book, glass, paintMartha Savery-Kahn, untitled, book, glass, paint

The medium is mostly 3-D and colorful. The more sculptural and the more colorful the work, the better it looks in the glass cases. The thing about fiber is it’s very populist in its appeal–just the ticket for this sort of public space.

haasdetailLesley Haas, Raw Suffering of a woman, detail, paper

The choices–curated by Kathryn Pannepacker, whose devotion to area fiber artists must deserve some kind of an award–are varied, and at times edgy, at other times traditional, unfettered by any narrow philosophy of what fiber art is. Pannepacker selected a couple of with fibers made of glass, by Martha Savery-Kahn (of Little Berlin). The green book wrapped with glass is scrumptuous at the same time that it suggests the fragility of words, paper, and the ecosystem. The hand-made-paper dresses of Lesley Haas look spectacular in the cases, also suggesting fragility–this time of our past and fashion and our bodies–not to mention offering the pleasure of adornment and the ways that clothing redefines body shape.

Francine Strauss, Looped, crochet yarn of mixed fibers
Francine Strauss, Looped, crochet yarn of mixed fibers

Also in the clothing category, a crazy crocheted boa or neck warmer by Francine Strauss seems like a dare–as in would you dare to wear this thing, with its mix of crazy shapes and colors and drape! At the other extreme, the exhibit includes weavings that include a traditional Ukrainian skirt and sash by Vera Nakonechny–totally wearable–and Patricia Doran’s Wild Fire hanging, that was lovely for its colors and textures and references to the natural world.

Duane Weber, Sphinx, linenDuane Weber, Sphinx, linen

The exhibit includes several wonderful basketry pieces. Duane Weber’s geometric Sphinx is a shield shape that’s an odd mix of peculiarity, fierce control and geometry that set me wondering what he was up to.  Jane J. Wilkie’s basket of fabric and grape vines won me over with its colors, textures and sheer exuberance.

Patty Greenspoon, Along for the Ride, mixed media fiber
Patty Greenspoon, Along for the Ride, mixed media fiber

Patty Greenspoon‘s poetic Along for the Ride is a doll toting smaller dolls on her shoulders and portraits on the front and back–that’s five figures in one small object that was surely under 9 inches tall! She becomes a Venus of Willendorf carrying all of womankind on her strong shoulders! The doll includes a variety of traditional needlework techniques, from applique to embroidery. Another doll-like piece by Diana Koss is totemic, a sort of tree of life, the figure’s antlers housing a bird’s nest. and Gretchen Slentz’ Beaded cat (and also her Beaded Bra) are exotic, their encrustations suggesting Eastern tastes, from belly dancers to Persian rugs to Russian ethnic garb.

Bette Uscott-Woolsey, Sound Effects, embroidery/dye
Bette Uscott-Woolsey, Sound Effects, embroidery/dye

Following a system of rules, a la James Siena’s drawings, Bette Uscott-Woolsey created Sound Effects, an intense, small square of markings with threads. The pattern is quilt-like, but the tight structure implies a weight and density that is a nice surprise.

Shelby Donnelly, Document, silk, ink, thread
Shelby Donnelly, Document, silk, ink, thread

Uscott-Woolsey’s square is one of several flat pieces that stand up well in the cases. So does June Blumberg’s Yellow Lion & Flower Monkey, really a painting except that it’s made of collage fabric as well as paint. The expressions on the lion’s and monkey’s faces in what looks like a domestic space charmed me. Shelby Donnelly’s notebook page, Document, of pink silk, the page lines and margin line executed as reckless quilting stitches, has three-ring binder holes bordered by what looks like a buttonhole stitch. I was surprised by the choice of pink silk, but the execution was delightful.

Jane J. Wilkie, Bowl in Raspberry Lime, fabric, grape vines
Jane J. Wilkie, Bowl in Raspberry Lime, fabric, grape vines

It has been quite a while since the cases received a makeover, with sheetrock backing instead of the old aluminum-slat hanging system, but that transformation from mobile-home aesthetics into something closer to white-box gallery aesthetics has generally not been enough to boost the ugliest vitrines on earth into something art friendly.

So, it must be the art!!!

The show includes 50 artists. The rest of them are:

Wendolyn Anderson, Virginia Batson, Linda Celestian, Karen Donde, Stephanie Dorfman, Marie Elcin, Elizabeth W. Fram, Adrienne Gale, Alyson Giantisco,  Melissa Maddonni Haim, Ted Hallman, Nancy Herman, Sara Horne, Toni Kersey, Pat diPaula Klein, Maris Fisher Krasnegor, Marilyn E. Lavins, Betty Leacraft, Susan Leonard, Craig Matthews, Emily McBride, Bette McCarron, Leslie Meeks, Nancy Middlebrook, Valetta, Pam Pawl, Christopher Ray, Sheila Ruen, Ellen Sall, Sophie Sanders, Lee Harper Schultz, Kathy Selbst, Marci Smoger, Pete Stevens, Jacqueline Unanue, Helen Webber, and Kiersten Wildermuth.

 

 

Kathryn Pannepacker on the windiest day of the year on North Broad
Kathryn Pannepacker on the windiest day of the year on North Broad

 

Pannepacker has been one of the driving forces behind the fiber extravaganzas that have been happening in Philadelphia for the past few years. She recently created a new Wall of Rugs, the second version of this idea, on North Broad Street, for the Mural Arts Program. Roberta and I, visiting her as she worked on one of the windiest day of the winter, were struck by how she made the people who stopped by and chatted with her a part of the project. Pannepacker asked about their native lands, researched the rug patterns from those lands, and then followed up on the random conversations by adding those patterns to the wall. She simultaneously had a weaving project right out there on Broad Street, creating a rug from plastic bags! She definitely has her pulse on the people of Philadelphia!

Tags

art in city hall, bette uscott-woolsey, duane weber, francine strauss, jane j. wilkie, kathryn pannepacker, lesley hass, martha savery, on the fringe of fiber, patty greenspoon, shelby donnelly

sponsored
sponsored

Moving Artblog Forward - Celebrating 17 Years - Donate Today!

Artblog is passionate about art. If you are too, please help us in our Annual Appeal Campaign!

Donate Today!

Send this to a friend