Two years ago, I had the good fortune of attending an opening of an exhibition of Lithuanian textile artists that took place during the Eleventh Triennial of Tapestry in Lotz, Poland. I had been aware of the strength of their textile expression and variety of innovations in their textile arts through periodical international exhibitions. This exhibition confirmed my beliefs.
I am honored to present six contemporary American textile artists whose work relates to the theme of Textile 05, “Place, Technology and Concept.” I have chosen textile artists from various geographic locations in the United States: East and West Coasts, the South, Mid-America and the state of Alaska. All of the artists are open to new ideas and techniques, and “I believe” speak very well of the state of contemporary textile art in the United States. Many of the artists can be put into all of the three categories that make up the theme of this event.
Two very influential American textile artists are Lia Cook and Cynthia Schira. They were a couple of the first textile artists to fully appreciate the potential of the computerized Jacquard loom, both hand and mechanized to liberate the artist to push the boundaries of contemporary textile art.
Schira employs the complexity of repeat patterning as a metaphor for the repetitive aspects of life and nature. She deals with the complexities of our world in a conscious state of flux. A reoccurring theme in Schira’s work is relating traditional, textile-design motifs to those of drawing.
Lia Cook’s imagery comes from a collection of family photographs and her self-portraits. Cook is involved with the woven image being “embedded” within the structure of the woven fabric. The scale of her work, along with the “draped” installations, brings a sensuality and sense of touch to her textile art.
Michael James, a quilt artist, whose art is strongly rooted in the tradition of American quilt making, has been in the forefront of digital technology. To enhance his textile art, James manipulates old family photographs as a basis for his own printed cotton fabrics. Then again, he manipulates the fabric, then pieces and quilts the units into a finished textile. James reveals the relationship to pattern, to color, to interplay with visual movement, and to memory. James explores notions of concealment and revelation through his use of illusionary space.
Junco Pollack investigates abstract imagery from both Western and Eastern cultures on sheer synthetic fabric that makes her work both translucent and reflective. Pollack makes use of heat-transfer for her dye-sublimation printing onto polyester fibers. These works, when suspended in space, take on a weightless and ephemeral quality playing on the movements of light and shadow.
Fran Reed has a passion for manipulating a variety of fish skin (silver salmon, halibut, cod, and red snapper) with hog gut over a baleen or willow armature into translucent, fluid vessels and sculptural forms. These forms have a lyrical quality as light passes through the membrane surfaces revealing embedded, natural, indigenous materials layered within the skins. Reed has been able to entwine the
native Inuit and Aleut material culture into her own language.
Gyongy Laky’s sculptures and installations have evolved from a range of conceptual ideas dealing with important environmental and social issues. Laky combines the unexpected in her work and is constantly experimenting with structures that emphasize linear arrangements. She juxtaposes both natural and discarded items to create a bold, engaging, and insightful statement.
Jon Eric Riis