Wednesday October 29, 2014

Traditional Commentary on Modern Visual Culture

By Kiersten Remster '17

My first step into Gallery 249’s current exhibit, Fibers in Flux, felt like I was walking into a chamber of stale air. Nostalgia raced through my memory as the scent of all the fibers, afghan and yarn reminded me of a typical old attic at a grandparents’ house.

The scent of these vintage fibers that evoked reminiscent memories parallels the artists’ meanings of their works conveyed by this exhibit.

Fibers in Flux, curated by Darden Bradshaw, brings together seven different artists whose locations range from Dayton to Canada. All of the artists experiment and comment on the changes of fiber art in contemporary times. The exhibit draws upon the shift from traditional processes to modern conceptions of fiber art.

As stated by Bradshaw, the “fiber is a rich medium that celebrates both historical and cultural relationships between object, form, craft, and content.” The historical context of the traditional weaving processes has become commercialized to the modern crafters’ techniques. Crafters now purchase their linens from manufacturers, rather than traditional makers who spent time creating the fibers from natural materials.

Several artists in this show remain to the traditional material use, while others utilize non-traditional processes to create their works. All of them regardless of the history of their fibers critique the modern representations of visual culture.

One of the artists whose pieces caught my attention was Andrea Graham, from Ontario, Canada. Graham appears to keep the traditional style and technique of felting alive, while confronting modern aspects of our everyday lives.

My favorite piece, Vicera Sensus, features a felted wool fiber sculpture woven in grey in the shape of a human heart. Large spots of bright red fiber symbolize blood spots, as they encircle the ventricles and reach around the inner chambers of the heart. Three carved out portions from the center of the heart allow us to see what Graham has incorporated inside of the organ. Shapes of white fiber reflect the contours and patterned details of a human brain trapped inside the heart. The brain is symbolic because Graham is critiquing “the ways we wound ourselves through the destruction of our habitats,” said Bradshaw. This concept reflects the emotional traumas we expose ourselves to as our society continues to destroy both nature and man’s habitats as the global scale of commercialized incorporations expand.

Kerry Phillips from Miami, Florida, created a large installation that features objects and furniture she collected from around the city of Dayton. She decided that she wanted to utilize the element of sharing in order to convey a message of honoring the memory and value that miniscule objects hold to individuals. This piece, Founding, presents a large upturned wooden table that is connected to a shelf attached to the gallery wall by a mass of yarn uniting the two pieces. On both the table and the shelf hang dozens of balls of yarn and afghan, fusing together the two material pieces with fragments of yarn dangling down to the floor in the center. Underneath the table, a 1966 yearbook from Bowling Green State University is placed to capture an individual’s valued memories in this collective piece.

Fibers in Flux will be ending on October 30th at Gallery 249 in Raymond J. Fitz Hall (formerly known as College Park Center) at the University of Dayton.

Kiersten Remster is a sophomore Art History and German student at University of Dayton. She is the new student arts writer at ArtStreet and is very excited to be a part of the ArtStreet family. Kiersten has been a competitive swimmer her whole life and is continuing her swimming career through the Dayton Master's program. She is also serving on the Academic Affairs Committee this year as vice president and is looking forward to working with faculty in order to improve Dayton's academic curriculum.

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