News: News Archives
Collection of Fiber Art Demonstrates Processes and Materials Shared with Science
Nadine Spier's "Ocean Storm" is a basket woven from pine needles and linen thread with a kinite stone from Russia in the center.
It can withstand at least a decade's worth of foot and paw traffic from you, your family and your pets. It repels red wine and spaghetti sauce, and it resists scratches. You might not think that such a durable material could also be hung on a wall and admired as art, but that is precisely what fiber artist Joyce Barker-Schwartz intends for her acrylic-coated canvas rugs.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., will host works by Philadelphia-based Barker-Schwartz and 40 other fiber artists at the Fiber Artists Collective exhibit from 24 September until 16 November. The exhibit opens Thursday, 27 September from 5-7 p.m. and is free to the public. The exhibit, in the first floor gallery, is part of the AAAS Art of Science and Technology Program, established in 1985 to showcase art about science, art by scientists, or art that employs a new or original technology or technique.
"Praire Land," by John Gunther, is a hand-dyed, hand-woven wall piece made of New Zealand Marino wool.
"The fiber exhibit represents art employing new technology or methodology," said Virginia Stern, director of the AAAS Art of Science and Technology program, who arranged the exhibit with AAAS curator Shirley Koller. "The AAAS is proud that our collection includes weavings that employ mathematics, computer science and original techniques."
Barker-Schwartz, for example, uses a novel technique that involves the combination of acrylic and woven canvas to make her rugs. "Art, like science, has a lot to do with materials and process," said Barker-Schwartz. Sixteen years ago, she developed a technique of coating her woven canvas rugs with layers of Polycrylic when her new, informal house needed a living room rug. She was looking for something interesting, fun and textural but that could hold up to the foot traffic of her family, which included her son and a dog.
"I couldn't find anything," Barker-Schwartz said of her unsuccessful rug shopping. The fiber artist decided to design and construct one herself, and she built the equipment to make her own beautiful yet durable rug out of three layers of woven canvas covered with four to five coats of acrylic. The first rug she made with her newly-devised technique measured five by 10 feet, and it has endured her family's foot traffic for 16 years.
"I don't do anything small," she explained.
Layers of dyed organza make up the collage-like quilt "Still From a Life 4" from Dominie Nash's still life series featuring familiar objects.
Another AAAS exhibitor, Renee Harris, says her process of felt-making has much to do with science. "Each wool fiber has scales," said Harris, who lives in Cincinnati. Like shingles on a roof, each wool fiber is protected by overlapping scales. "When water is applied, it swells the scale," Harris said. When the soaked fibers are agitated, she said, they become entangled and shrink, forming felt. Harris combines felt-making and embroidery to make garden- and nature-inspired wall hangings. Her 11-inch-square depiction of birds and trees is the only piece in the AAAS exhibit that is not for sale, as it was recently purchased by a collector.
In addition to the traditional fabric materials used in fiber art, unconventional materials such as paper and metal are also used in works displayed in the AAAS exhibit. For example, Maryland-based artist David Bacharach used woven metal in his AAAS piece.
The works displayed at the AAAS Gallery show that fiber art extends well beyond quilt-making and rug weaving. Exhibitor Sally Dillon uses the ancient batik technique of layering dye and wax to make wall hangings, clothing and scarves. Like many of the artists in the exhibit, almost all of Dillon's work is commissioned. She has quilted nature scenes for tourists who have visited Hawaii or the Hudson River. Sometimes she even does cellular images, such as bronchial tubes for a medical art shop.
Martha Fieber used painted silk fabric resembling alder trees with straight stitches and French knots embroidery in her wall piece "Alders."
Dillon says that the AAAS exhibit is a good cross-fertilization between artists and scientists. "All of us artists need to know more about science," she said. "I think the scientists think that we appreciate them."
The AAAS Gallery is located at 12th and H streets, N.W., in Washington, D.C. It is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. For more information, contact Shirley Koller.
24 September 2007