Fiber Art Work at DAC show full of surprises, Durango Herald, July 24, 2007

Photo by Leanne Goebel

Donna L. Lish’s synthetic cotton, glass beaded and knitted “Subtext: Eruption” is part of the Fiber Celebrated show at the Durango Arts Center through July 31.

For centuries, art has been created by counting. Counting stitches, beads per row, rows per inch. Knit one, pearl two.

Weaving, tapestry, crotchet and needlepoint have been used to create blankets, wall coverings, clothing and containers. Some consider these traditional methods blas`E9, not visionary enough for the contemporary art world. Yet artists who use the traditional methods to create avant-garde work produce intriguingly fine craft.

One example is Jane Sauer’s Thirteen Moons, one of my favorite galleries on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. It’s a feast for the eyes and tantalizing to the touch, filled with amazing creations in metal, fiber and basketry.

While Durango has fine establishments selling traditional weavings and baskets, we don’t find contemporary fiber work displayed regularly. Yet, nationally recognized fiber artist Ilze Aviks has called Durango home for 25 years. Aviks teaches workshops around the world and her finely stitched creations are modern yet traditional.

Aviks is the juror for “Fiber Celebrated,” an exhibition on display at the Durango Arts Center as part of the biennial Intermountain Weavers Conference. The exhibit is textural, filled with rugs, tapestries and wearable arts.

“I wanted to pick work that showed a range of approaches, and I hoped that viewers unused to seeing art textiles might be educated and surprised,” Aviks wrote in her juror’s statement.

The most surprising work in the show is by Donna L. Lish. Her synthetic cotton, glass beaded and knitted works are suspended sculptures in black, white and silver-gray. “Subtext: Eruption” and “Present Text” ($1,000 each) are beautiful examples of creating nontraditional work with a traditional medium. She explores boundaries and challenges viewers to see things in a new way.

This is book art abstracted, focusing on splayed pages and giant beaded bookmarks. It’s methodical, yet not preconceived.

“I consider the spirit of a book the essence of a container – functional purpose subsumed by intellectual impression. A book is the splay of pages, the drape from a binding, the script like looping of stitches” Lish wrote in her artist statement.

A small surprise is found in Peggy Love’s “Blues” ($600) a framed work of embroidery and French knots. Differing shades of blue, varying patterns and textures all created with six-strand DMC embroidery cotton.

Another surprise is Susan McGehee’s wire-and-copper bobble-weave work. “Sartori Sunset” ($800) looks like a scarf ruffled in the wind, hanging on the wall. McGehee wrote in her statement: “I enjoy when the viewer assumes a piece is fiber and then is surprised upon discovery that it is entirely metal.”

A combination of photo transfer and quilting techniques allowed Sue Johnson to create “Headers and Footers” ($475). The wall piece is made with cotton, hand-dyed fabric, machine embroidery and fabric pens.

According to Johnson’s statement, the work is part of a series exploring relationships and new freedoms in her life. The narrative is evident.

Other work is more expected. There are lots of rugs and tapestries, quilts and fabric paintings, and beautiful wearable art: raunas, scarves and long coats.

Count the days until this show ends, and make time to be surprised by what artists are doing with traditional fiber methods.

artsjournalist@centurytel.netLeanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the visual arts.

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