Textile-based work has long been considered craft or decorative art in Western culture. Deftly woven to tell stories, tapestries were found in castles or manors during the Middle Ages. Beautiful yet functional, they would keep out drafts of cold air trying to steal through the walls. Perhaps the most familiar collection is the "Lady and the Unicorn," which consists of six tapestries, woven in silk and wool, five of them recounting the senses. We would be remiss if we didn't speak about the importance of textiles in Africa, as well. African artists have a long, rich art history that spans thousands of years from the Dogon, who used weavings to tell the story of rebirth, to contemporary artists such as Abdoulaye Konate, whose massive tapestries are constructed and reconstructed and speak to global socio-political issues.
Indeed, the medium has drastically evolved into a strong contemporary fine art. Textile artists like Jacqueline Fink, Ana Teresa Barboza, Maryanne Moodie, Hanne Friis and, closer to home, Rebecca Cross, Libby Chaney and Jessica Pinsky continue to push boundaries and reinvent our relationship with the art.
Enter Dissection ...
Shiny, soft, stiff, foreign and familiar are a few words that come to mind when describing Dissection, the new body of work by artist Jessica Pinsky on view at Hedge Gallery. Like members of a choir, the pieces croon in unison, creating distinct upper- and lower- ranged harmonies that suffuse the gallery.
The wall hangings bear no titles, but are numbered from 1 through 83. Starting near the north entrance of the smaller gallery and moving into the large space, we are taken on a journey through suspended moments in time. Pinsky confirms this in her artist statement: "These weavings are hung in a straight line to visually dissect the gallery in two. This line creates a divide to represent how we either rise or fall. The space between any beginning and end seems suspended in time, frozen in an eternity of discomfort."
The majority of the artworks gravitate toward the floor with only a select few that move in an upward direction. These are not your typical weavings. Pinsky is known for deconstructing and reconstructing her medium. She removes sections from the threads that run back and forth, known as warp, as well as weft, the threads that run up and down. Once Pinsky is satisfied with her distortions, she paints each one with dye and then dips it in resin. Not every piece received this final treatment, however. Some of them move ever so slightly when a breeze passes through the gallery.
Toward the south wall of the gallery, a weaving seems to ooze over itself into a cascade of soft, plush lines, like a wild river rapid whooshing through a canyon. Eventually the threads succumb to the stiff resin underneath to resemble a chunk of ice. A few feet away, another in pastel pink and cream reclines to the left as if to reveal a secret to the artwork next to it, an airy, blue threaded number. Nestled into one of the gallery's alcoves, we find a neutral toned, soft and matte square; hints of muted red and brown coddle us toward a wildly controlled tail.
Using MX reactive dyes for plant-based fibers, Pinsky gifts us colors ranging from neutral and acid pink to indigo and blood red. Her palette references the female body. "I am suspended in anticipation of pregnancy. These pieces express degrees of conflict, challenge and hope that are before me as I await motherhood," she says.
The wall pieces can't be more than 12-by-12 inches, on average, but they have a big impact, as though they were alive, each weaving taking on its own persona. If they could speak, we admit we feel like they would. On the title wall there's a weaving that reminds us of a woman wearing a fascinator, her hair tousled and sprayed around it to keep it all in place. Further into the gallery, there are some clearly pregnant weavings hanging about. Some have parentheses of fringe, some don't, but they are making their mark for sure.
The entire collection is captivating. No matter what your familiarity with textile-based art, Pinsky's latest creations make you stop and take note. This exhibition is a showstopper and demands more than 30 seconds in front of each weaving. We suggest you schedule accordingly.