One Red Thread: Interwoven at Marta Hewett Gallery
Marta Hewett Gallery is located within the Annex at the Pendleton Art Center in Cincinnati. The exhibition currently on view there, which features fiber and textile arts, strays from the beginnings of the gallery’s history. According to the gallery website, painter and School of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati alumni and gallery owner, Marta Hewett founded it as a space to display contemporary glass works. The glass work aspect remains, according to an interview she did with Movers & Makers Magazine this past year, the variety of mediums exhibited has expanded to include ceramics, textiles and contemporary paintings.
The gallery now represents 50 artists and has left an undeniable imprint on the Cincinnati art scene. After all, according to the aforementioned article, the Final Friday Gallery Walks that began 26 years ago were Hewett’s idea. In the gallery’s current exhibition, Interwoven, Hewett’s exhibition featuring a variety of textile artists allows for an inventive look into fiber as a medium in contemporary art.
According to the gallery’s press release (and despite the more common focus on other art mediums such as painting, sculpture, and photography in the art world,) studies have shown that fiber is the most popular medium for making art in America. Because fibers create the garments we rely on for warmth, protection, and comfort, textile history is intertwined with human history. This aspect makes the importance and necessity of the medium universal to all.
Virginia based artist, Erika Diamond’s, “Emergency Tapestry” series was a standout in the show. As her website reveals, Diamond is a conceptual artist, who works in sculpture and performance art in addition to textiles. Her four works featured in the show are hand woven alpaca tapestries depicting the Heimlich maneuver, CPR instructions, and an excerpt from an airline flight manual. Diamond’s focus on the language of safety instructions does not seem to be a critique, but more of an act of keen awareness of this element of modern human experience. Expanding these commonly known illustrations to a grand scale (the pieces range from 20”x 20” to 24”x 48”) elevates them to the level of storytelling that counteracts the stark sterility of safety manuals.
Another artist in the exhibition is the founder and former president of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild, Heather Jones, who creates grid-like abstract-patterned quilts. According to the gallery’s press release, Jones is inspired by the surrounding architecture and landscapes of her Southern Ohio home and she uses this imagery to inform her textile works. Important to her practice as well, is that these quilts also function as paintings. Meaning that the patterns created with fabric create what can be considered paintings.
In contrast with this more two-dimensionally focused work, are Jappie King Black’s sculptures in wax, grapevine bark, and bronze. A New York based artist, Black creates work that seems to be the remains of some long lost ritual that as a viewer, we are all too curious to discover. The earthy textures of grapevine bark and intertwined fibers form effigy-like references to human and animal forms. Black, the gallery’s press release reveals, also pushes fiber as a medium into new territories as she uses the lost wax technique to cast bowls she hand knots into bronze forms. An unspoken mystical aura resonates in these pieces, as the work feels in deep contrast with the rest of the exhibition.
Wisconsin artist, Tim Harding’s, ominous “Shroud—Ascending Man” and “Shroud—Falling Man” organza and Dupioni silk banners hang frozen from the ceiling as if remnants of prehistoric records of human lineage. Interested in creating composite images through the process of reverse applique and layering, Harding did not begin as a textile artist. In fact, fiber art deviates from his artistic background in photography and painting.
Harding’s work in this exhibition is mostly clearly read as figurative from a distance, making his image creation border on, as he says in the artist statement on his website, “pixel-like.” One piece in particular, Harding’s silk and linen, “Visage #2,” at a close distance seems to be an abstract work. Only from a few feet away is the presence of a human face finally detectable. In his “Shroud—Ascending Man” and “Shroud—Falling Man” works, two visible larger than life-size body outlines hang suspended between floor and ceiling, forcing the viewer to encounter this seemingly momentary fragmented documentation of human existence. Though stationary, the mirrored image of a human form rising and falling implies movement, as if evidence of a performance clouded by the passing of time.
Cincinnati native and sculptural artist, Judith Scott’s, “Untitled” fiber, thread, found objects, and yarn piece, in the show is only more appreciated after learning the story behind her journey as an artist. As per the gallery’s press release, Scott’s artistic talent was not fully realized until later in her life. Her technique, according to gallery director, David Smith, involves wrapping found objects in yarn, in order to transform them into a solid, unified mass.
A deaf artist with Downs Syndrome, Scott spent much of her life in a detached institutional environment, at 43, she was moved to Creative Growth Art Center in San Francisco, a non-profit studio space devoted to artists with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities. Once her creative abilities were fostered and appreciated in this environment, her exceptional artistic abilities became apparent.
These are just a few of the 11 artists featured in the Interwoven exhibition currently on view until March 9th at Marta Hewett Gallery located at 1310 Pendleton Street Cincinnati, Ohio.
Gallery hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 am - 5 pm and Saturday, 11 am - 3 pm. Admission and Parking are free. For more information please call the gallery at 513.281.2780 or martahewett.com.
Written by Meggie Bailey