Culture 2.0 is a matter of virtual stitchery, interlocking ones with zeros. But on a cold day, it's obvious that physical fabrics are still indispensable. In many ways thread continues to embroider the present, patching technical innovations into human history.
Wall Eye Gallery fiber artists Linda Ayala and Stephanie Lipscomb assembled the show Undomesticated to celebrate Women's History Month and National Craft Month, both in March. Scouring northern Ohio's lively fiber-arts scene with help from the Internet, they put together an exciting exhibit of fine-arts objects produced in materials ranging from traditional fibers like wool and the sheer silk fabric organza to polypropylene rope and lutradur (a polyester roofing product now popular in weaving circles).
Conceptually, the territory explored by the 10 women whose work is on view is even broader. Jennifer Whitten combines beadwork with found-object assemblage to build wall-hung works that seem bejeweled. Her "Passages" layers postage stamps from remote countries with words and phrases like "but in a moment," and "on the way home," opening windows to the cross-breezes of daily experience. Emily Felderman's small abstract works look like pointillist pastel drawings, exploring issues of form and color — but in fact, they're painstakingly constructed from thousands of tiny stitches. While Felderman's techniques evoke the complex, meltingly lovely razzle-dazzle of natural surfaces like fur and feathers, they're really all about time.
Time, represented by sustained effort and the transformative powers of repetition, is a primary subject of both art and craft, and takes on a special role at Undomesticated, which Ayala and Lipscomb intend partly as an examination of fine art as it encounters function. Georgianne Wanous has been known in the Cleveland area for the past 30 years for making works like those seen here that fuse ecclesiastical subjects and uses with traditional folk techniques.
Cleveland Institute of Art visiting faculty Sara Rabinowitz, working with Julie Boyer, makes a more conceptual contribution. "Triage" is a handmade edition of two full-size cots based on original WW1 specifications, available to gallery patrons to try out for themselves. Christy Gray and Christine Mauersberger each create thread drawings on fabric, while Shannon Okey, known online as knitgrrl, is the author of books like Knitting for Dummies.
Time and the limitless import of woven fabric — which has always served as a metaphor linking life and death, presence and absence — is evoked in the five-part "Ghost Rocks" by Oberlin artist Rebecca Cross. Made from organza in the ancient shibori process, the crinkled, cascading, seaweed-like work develops its undulations from the fabric's chemical memory of stones tie-dyed into the silk, which retains their cupped imprints. Mounted near the gallery's rear wall, its rich gray sections wind around space and light like smoke or falling water, like garments for the tall spirits of those much beloved persons, woven into memory.