By Margaret Ryan
THREADS BARED: Art Inspired by Fiber, currently featured at the NAVE Gallery, exposes the creativity and edginess of contemporary fiber art. There is little in the way of traditional handcrafts in this exhibit. Instead, Somerville curator Tori Costa puts together a show that challenges the viewer to redefine fiber as a medium for making art.
The NAVE Gallery is entered through the lobby of the Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church. A step through the building’s red doors places one inside of Storm Yarn Not Bombs by Pearl K. Nit. The 60s meet 2012 with the theme of peace in bright colors, yarn flowers, a wide eyed flower child and a peace sign.
Inside the NAVE, one is startled by fiber art making use of pine cones, driftwood, chairs, twigs, toothpicks, seeds, metal, plastic bags, table cloths, string, wire and more. Each piece provides multiple nooks and crannies to contemplate. An initial view is the entrance into a labyrinth of common and not so familiar fibers used in non-traditional ways.
V Van Sant of Somerville invites all to step up to the empath altar. She envisions her altar installations as “creations that form over time in a post apocalyptic future. Man made and for man, not gods.” The eyes on the wrapped altar libations bottles “keep a watch over us with their mournful stares, hoping for change.”
The north wall of the gallery displays the art of Ellen Solari and Susan Meier. Ellen’s lacy vessels are made of twigs, yarn, wire and dried flower pods. They project from the wall and rest on a pedestal ready to engulf any insect in their path. Ellen states, “Working with my hands is central to my artistic expression. The tactile experience of manipulating materials is what makes creating so compelling to me.” Susan’s Yellow Door displays comfortably among the nature vessels. It is made of distressed pulp painted on burlap with machine stitching. Yellow Door is subtle. The door itself appears as a ghostly shape in the upper left corner above a ladder or path of unpainted black burlap rectangles. What lies behind that yellow door?
Boston artist, Ruth Daniels exhibits three meditative pieces made of wood, toothpicks, thread, pigmented polymer medium and charcoal. She describes her creative process: “I begin this work with a single shaped piece of wood upon which additional layers of wood are added. Parts of this structure are transformed into a loom with varying heights of toothpicks. The repetitive motion of weaving reflects the rhythm of a daily routine. Altering the shape of the single piece of wood is a metaphor which exemplifies there is more than one way to perceive life’s events and how one morphs through growth and experiences.”
On display to the right of Daniels’ art is Archeological Remnants: Discarded Book by North Carolina artist Rebecca Aranyi. It incorporates background shades of pinks, grays, coral, mauves, orange and rust that mimic colors used by Daniels. The grouping of Ruth’s small works with Rebecca’s archeological piece creates a gallery wall filled with detail and subtleties.
The color red shouts a presence in this exhibit. It is central in the knotted threads of Fruition by Kathleen Kneeland. It then weaves in and through the ceiling to floor tower of crocheted plastic bags by Somerville artist, Susan Berstler. Stepping inside the tower of color one feels surrounded by European stained glass church windows. From there the color red splashes and runs along the gallery south wall in Merill Comeau’s Fragments of Eden. It creates a sense of July heat among the pictorial and color references to the four seasons. Red then bounces off the fiery hand knit steel wire sculpture Heart of Fire by Amy Pett to finally rest upon the pleasing grid of hand woven red wools with a red watercolor center, created by Charlotte Noruzi of New York City.
Then there is the draping fiber art by Melissa Glick and by Lauren O’Neal. Across the room from each other these pieces challenge one to step gingerly in and around each while they cast a change of shadows on floor and wall. Each piece asks the viewer to contemplate the juxtaposition of soft drape and hard metal surfaces.
Not to be ignored is the very alive, squirmy piece Book Bundle #1 by Stacey Piwinski. This fiber art attracts and repels. What are these little creatures tucked, spiraled and twisted in and around, touching and not touching, each other? It appears that thirty-eight little paper beings are corralled against their will in the fenceless yet defined frame of the dark colored substructure. Given a bit more room each one would stretch and re-create a new shape of personal distinction. However, each is bound by thread and twine forever held in a contorted position. I have an urge to cut them free and then run for the hills.
To the right of the squirmy creatures is Jodi Colella’s Tweeter, a piece of driftwood wrapped in fabric, wire, paper and steel wool supported by an abstract rusty metal stand. Tweeter projects stillness while overlooking the whole exhibit with a sense of power and regal-ness. Ms. Colella also exhibits Betwixt. The two pines cones are elegantly clothed in muted colors, serenely co-existing on a white wall. Colella comments that she begins “with traditional handwork techniques and brings the medium to new levels of abstraction and complication creating sculptures that act as metaphors for being human.”
Ms. Costa curated a thoughtful exhibit with local and out-of-state artists, all who choose to stretch and fray the edges of fiber as art. Visit Threads Bared Saturdays and Sundays, 1-5 p.m. through December 16. Conversations with Artists will take place Sunday, December 15, 2-4 p.m. NAVE Gallery is located at 155 Powderhouse Boulevard, Somerville, MA 02144. www.navegallery.org.