But it was only after I could finally separate out all the crocheted pot-holders and felted figurines from the lump of Fibre Arts that I could see that this is a medium that offers endless innovation beyond what I wanted to do in paint or metal or wood.
Fibre arts has a global and historical connectedness but it's the culture embedded in those fibres that really carries weight. A doily is not just knotted cotton thread but a slightly-disdained symbol of women of a certain generation; a cheap polyester shirt can refer to class or sweatshops. Fibre is rarely neutral, but hot with connotations. It can be at once attractive and repulsive, modest and monumental. It can reveal the artist's intimate passion for the material or method and evoke ideas of global exploitation or environmental degradation — often in the same piece.
Vancouver sculptor and educator Liz Magor capitalizes on the cultural weight of fibre in her new show at the Catriona Jeffries gallery in Vancouver (through Dec. 22). It's impossible to feel nothing when confronted with revealed box after box of familiar yet altered, oddly-accessorized garments. They almost demand the viewer to connect the gaudy contents, construct a narrative, create a character. There's a lot of chatter in that quiet space.
Yet even the most abstracted, distilled fibre arts works have a lot to say. A recent tour of the World of Threads international festival (continuing in Toronto to Dec. 2) revealed conceptual artworks fabricated from everything from brocade to pig intestine. A felted cloth full of gaping holes hangs heavy with dark emotion. An expansive, torqued mandala-like piece of dirt brown sisal and burlap is surprisingly uplifting.
Or maybe it was just being in this gallery, in the company of some engaging examples of fibre artwork, just one of the many venues celebrating conceptual fibre arts during the fest.
It was quite a contrast to the art scene back home; Magor's show is an exception in this photo-conceptual-branded town.
One of Liz Magor's many boxes of garments in the I is Being This show.
Toronto artist Lorena Santin-Andrade's Warm, felted wool
Lisa DiQuinzio's Good Morning, Midnight, 91" diameter