Wanda and Me at a Fiber Art Exhibit

Yesterday, my friend Wanda and I went to the Fiber Art International 2016 exhibit (http://fiberartinternational.org). It’s an exhibit of fiber art held first at two locations in Pittsburgh, and then it will travel around to other places in the future. One of the initial comments about the exhibit explained that the pieces selected had to display either art made with fibers, or art made using the traditional techniques for fibers (weaving, embroidery, etc).

It’s always… interesting… to go to an exhibit and see what is included in the category of art. I have to admit that some of the pieces caused me to stop and just stand there, blinking at them in mystification. There was an art “installation” that was three objects arranged as if they had just been left there during the set-up process for the exhibit… is that art? There was a large piece of woven black electrical cords with various ends sticking out. It was visually striking, and I kind of liked looking at it, but it is art? What about the machine gun made from pink plastic tampons stuck together, from which emerged red yarn dripping into a puddle? I have to admit that I sort of scampered past that one. Whether it’s art or not, I didn’t particularly want to look at it.


My friend Wanda looking at “Creating Skin” 2014 by Raija Jokinen, flax, machine stitching, Helsinki, Finland

Another comment in some of the opening literature was something to the effect that “art” should provoke you, or represent a theme, or convey a concept – I forget the exact wording. Some of the concepts were clearly beyond me. But, at least half of the pieces were tremendously skilled and I enjoyed looking at them. I included just a few of the ones that I liked.

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“Butting Head Ram” 2014, by Gwen Samuels: digital images on transparency, wire armature, Los Angeles, CA.



“Erosion” 2015, by Makiko Wakisaka, polyester thread, vinyl film, Tokyo, Japan

Here’s one I liked a lot:  “Erosion.”  Wanda is there off to the left looking at another display, but it gives you an idea of how very large this piece is so I left her in the photo.

I definitely think the exhibit is worth going to see, if it travels near you over the next year. Of course, in my opinion, any fiber art exhibit that doesn’t include some braiding is CLEARLY in need of education. But, I really don’t see myself braiding with electrical cords or alluding to menstruation in my braided rugs, so maybe I’m just not an ARTIST.

I have to admit, I came away from this exhibit thinking that maybe “fine craft” is a happier category for those of us who like to braid: I’d rather make a beautiful rug than convey any sort of thought-provoking concept or braid with “unique” materials. Ultimately, I want my braids to be used rather than hung on a wall, so if that just makes me a craftsman rather than an artist, then I’m happy with that.

I do think that braids can be used to create art – I still think that Pam Rowan’s basket, into which she braided stones wrapped in wire, would “qualify” as art, for example, and Kris McDermet’s unique hooked and braided creations certainly would also… so, there are some “artists” among those of us who like to braid. But isn’t being a craftsman a good thing? I’m sure my work won’t ever go on tour with the next FiberArt International exhibit, but… I’m not sure I’d even really want it to. I like what I make and I use what I make, and the usefulness of my work is part of its pleasure for me.  Guess I’m a craftsman.

11 thoughts on “Wanda and Me at a Fiber Art Exhibit

  1. Very interesting. Honestly, the Fine Art world ‘provokes’ me, sometimes, with what they call ‘art’, lol. I just hope to leave this world a little more beautiful than it was when I arrived. One way or another, we are all creators!

    • I guess, if nothing else, exhibits like this help to clarify one’s own definition of art. We all know, when we look at things, whether they are beautiful or intriguing or special… or whether they are just weird, not especially talented in our opinion, and… not art.

  2. Isn’t it said that Art is in the eye of the beholder? Totally agree about Pam and Kris being “artists” … and I would add Delsie -her braided landscapes are amazing!

  3. I understand exactly what you’re talking about. My daughter, being a art teacher, has shown me a lot of “art”!! Why does some of it look like something strangely weird? Something you would not want to have in your home! Is it a sick mind that creates these pieces that seem to have no meaning, except maybe to gross us out, kind of like the gross scarey movies do? There seems to be no attention to detail, no caring as to colors that don’t look like they bled all over each other? Is true art something that stops us in our tracks and shouts, ” look at me!” Do crafts always require paper and scissors? I think braiding is definitely not a craft, (no paper or glue, and much more style/class) You ladies bring art into braiding, your medium is wool! I googled Artisan, I like this for we braiders. A person, making things by hands, highly skilled, putting out products of high qualities in small amounts. Yes, that’s us!!
    Thank you

      • If nothing else, this exhibit –repeating myself, sorry — has really made me think about my own definition of what is art and what is NOT. I think the definition held in mind by the judges who selected the pieces for inclusion into this exhibit clearly placed the word “provocative” or even “weird” over “beautiful” or “skilled” (although, there were some pieces that were very beautiful and skilled, they just were overwhelmed in number by the provocative pieces). We all do have our own definitions, and while beauty and skill are clearly higher on my list of adjectives for what I consider to be art …. I’m not one of the judges!

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