Friday, February 18, 2011
Review: “Not your Grandma’s Fiber Show” -- closes March 3
Posted by Colin Darke
Grandmas versus artists—artists win!
A review of a fiber Art show at Janice Charach Gallery
By Colin Darke and Kelly Darke
Crocheted tissue box cozies were no where to be found! After all, this is “Not your Grandma’s Fiber Show.” I still had my doubts, but my sister, Kelly Darke, is a fine artist who creates contemporary fiber work. I saw the call for entry, forwarded it to her, she had a few pieces accepted, and I met her at the opening of “Not your Grandma’s Fiber Show” at the Janice Charach Gallery at the Jewish Community Center, which runs through March 3. (Warning – the iPhone pictures of the show below do not do this show justice!)
In my mind at least, fiber art has been the province of little old ladies with a lot of time on their hands. This show, however, shows that true artists can use any medium to get there message across. While I did not love every piece, I did explore and critique each piece as a piece of art rather than a kitschy decorative trinket. The pieces that I did not like were because the subject matter was juvenile, the composition was too heavy on one particular side, etc. There were no pieces that I did not like because I found them decorative and Grandma-esque.
Kelly and I decided to review the show together. We took Kelly’s pieces out of the equation, because if we read a review and saw the “critic” praise their own work, we would gag. Rather than discussing the show together, we wanted to see if we could form a consensus by separately answering four questions about the show and then comparing our responses.
1. What was the overall theme or feel of the show?
CTD: The overall feel of the show was workmanship. While you can step back and view the art work as representational or abstract, colorful or dark (mainly dark), my initial reaction was at the textural pull of work that was labor over. None of these artists just threw a piece together without thinking deeply about the process and the final, crafted piece.
KMD: There was a lot of work that expressed experimentation of traditional techniques and pieces that combined techniques. I'm wondering if having the student work from Eastern Michigan University has something to do with that impression since students are usually encouraged/eager to try new things. All the work is very well constructed, which makes for a strong overall show.
2. What were your favorite pieces?
CTD: I enjoyed Three Graces, by Margie Erlandson. This is a strong piece that grabbed my attention right away. Initially, I was drawn to the bold red and the delicate black drawings of objects that appear to start a story (three empty chairs, repetitive circles, possibly a dreidel). Then, I was drawn to the texture of the fabric that provided the base for the imagery. To me, it translated as someone using a family blanket to sketch out an important story to another member of the family or guests (us the viewers).
My favorite piece was C’est La Vie, by Diana Segovia. This piece was a collection of nine small crocheted silver squares with delicate red birds sewn into them. This was a piece that showed what I found compelling about the show. These were pieces that seemed like they could be blown away by a strong breeze, or accidently destroyed by a strong-handed artist. Yet, the final piece hovers gently on the wall because a caring artist took her time to show us the importance of the process, the materials, and the medium. The lights of the show danced off of the silver squares as the simple lined bird found its grounding.
KMD: It's really difficult to choose... although, my ultimate favorite piece is the mixed media dress combining different knitted pieces with silky fabrics - the combination of textures and colors is awesome and the asymmetrical drape adds more interest. I would love to wear this dress - with the knit coat - I don't know where, but it would be amazing.
collection of small knit/crochet pieces (vessels?) - I was very intrigued with the hanging pieces. I liked the intimacy of the delicate, small stitches - I really wanted to touch them, but that would have been inappropriate, I think.
I was also very intrigued by the postcard collages by Rayna Gilman - I like the compositions and the way the pieces have a uniform look - very professionally constructed.
3. What was your least favorite piece?
CTD: There was one piece, which I did not even take a picture of, that was a quilt with graphic imagery that seemed to be inspired by a comic book (cartoon dogs attacking). It simply tried too hard. It was reminiscent of middle school art created by an artist that can draw well, and wants to shock his or her viewer, but has not lived life deeply enough to provide imagery with substantive meaning and rather focuses on cliché imagery. It was crafted well, but I think the artist would have been more successful if he or she ignored their initial instinct to do a cartoon of a rabid dog and focused on finding a new way to visualize a person’s fear of seeing a dog that could pounce at any moment.
KMD: I'm not sure there were any pieces I didn't like - the whole show is very inspiring. If I had to choose I would say the knitted/crocheted bags. They didn't feel as strong to me as most of the other pieces. Also, they were a little too dense with textures for me.
a. How would you improve it?
CTD: The artist may be able to accomplish this by simply putting a translucent dark fabric in front of their piece so that a viewer would have to search for the imagery and then once found reflect on the feeling of being frozen with fear. I think this would allow the viewer to be a part of a dialogue with the artist rather than the artist just yelling at the viewer that he or she is angry and violent.
4. Are you looking forward to future shows at this venue?
a. Why or why not?
CTD: The space itself is large (2 floors) and allows you to easily navigate several pieces without getting stuck in a crowd of people. And, more importantly, the director showed a keen eye to present a variety of pieces that were anchored by a central theme but provided a texture of approach and point of view that gave me a new appreciation for a medium that I had never really considered.
KMD: This collection of work is very professional (especially considering it had so much student work - great student work). The gallery director did an excellent job with this show.