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.
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.
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.