There are those arts that are ancient, that seem unchanged through the ages, standing against trends that come and go, the tides that reinvent themselves over and over again. There is a comfort there, a knowledge that some things withstand the whims of popular culture. It is a sense of permanence, and it gives us peace.
But at the same time, an art form must evolve in order to survive. There must be new ideas and fresh perspectives, ways of viewing the world through art that cast a glimpse at the artist’s world, capturing moments in time and the feelings that accompany those moments.
So it is a tricky business to preserve that timeless quality, and yet maintain relevance and perspective on the modern world. The ancient art of fiberwork strikes this delicate balance, and the 34th annual Fiberworks exhibit in Oklahoma City is an opportunity to experience the finest the state has to offer.
The eclectic exhibition runs June 15-July 7 at the IAO Gallery, 706 W. Sheridan, and showcases workmanship and original design in weaving, needlework, basketry, quilting, soft sculpture, paper, knitting, crochet, felt and other works primarily constructed of fiber.
Fiberworks 2012 opens with a lecture on Friday, June 15 by this year’s juror, Jeanne Raffer Beck. She is a full-time studio artist who divides her time between her studio, in a converted factory building in the city of Rochester, and her rural home in Canandaigua, New York. Beck has taught surface design workshops and exhibited her work in the United States, England and Australia, and her fiber art was juried into the prestigious Fiberart International in 2010.
“I prize thoughtful experimentation,” says Beck. “While this often leads to failures or creates problems, it also brings about some of my most exciting insights and new ideas.”
Fiberworks 2012 is open to current Oklahoma residents, and more than $4,000 in awards will be presented in multiple categories.
For a sense of the diversity represented by the exhibition, Slice talked with three of 2012’s participating artists.
“Garment making has always been a part of my life,” says Oklahoma City resident Charlotte Hickman, “whether with yarn and knitting or fabric and sewing.”
Following retirement from a career as an educator and school administrator, Hickman became “addicted” to art quilting. After studying with several well-known mixed media and fiber artists, she has become an experienced award-winning quilter and educator, lecturing and teaching workshops on fabric painting, dyeing, piecing and appliqueing techniques.
Hickman brings two artistic picture quilts to Fiberworks 2012, and her works are characterized by vibrant colors, striking contrasts and use of value, as well as heavy machine quilting and embroidery.
Heather Clark Hilliard
Heather Clark Hilliard of Norman calls herself “an artist, photographer, writer, knitter, teacher, gardener, spinner, baker, adventurer and a color collector. My art making and research are focused on natural color, place, light and space.”
“My introduction to fibers was on a sheep farm in Connecticut where I learned how to hand-spin wool and discovered the beauty of dyeing fibers with natural dyes,” she says. “These are two processes that I continue to practice in my current work.”
Hilliard has several works currently in progress, utilizing such diverse materials as reclaimed cedar siding, plant-dyed silk, reclaimed wool blankets and felted knit wool.
“As an artist, the two most important aspects of Fiberworks that set it apart from other juried shows in Oklahoma are that they invite a different juror each year from out of state and that juror provides a critique of the work selected for the show,” Hilliard says. “This is a very rare opportunity for artists, participating in the show or not, to understand that particular juror’s process for selecting work.”
As a child, Sharyl Landis lived in Laredo, Texas, where she became intrigued by the vibrant colors of the Texas-Mexico border culture. “Nuevo Laredo was especially exciting,” she recalls. “Cross the border and you’re in another world!”
Long attracted by beading, she began working with beads in 1997, but she has worked in a large cross-section of fiber-related media. “Fiber seems to be an endless form of art,” says Landis, who now lives in Tulsa. “I’ve made small quilts, dyed fabric with added beads and embroidery, needle felted and dyed and spun yarn. Weaving is my newest addition in the form of off-loom as well as loom weaving.”
Landis is entering three pieces in Fiberworks 2012, including a lamp she calls “Edith,” named for a beloved cat she once owned. Reclaiming an old lamp shade, she removed the fabric, added a warp and wove the shade. The lamp’s base is a Zulu-type doll with beading, yarn for hair and a woven skirt from a small piece of her first loom weaving.