The newest exhibit at the Arts Council of Fayetteville and Cumberland County directs us away from the pervasive genre of painting and drawing. Instead, the works in the exhibit titled Woven in the Fray communicate the power of needle and thread, fabrics, yarn and lure of the tactile.
    The exhibit is a welcome relief from gallery walls usually lined with paintings and framed drawings. Instead, the Arts Council is hosting an exhibit that celebrates the continued endurance of fiber arts, a revival that began in the 1970s. It is apparent that fiber arts are well and thriving in Fayetteville.
    {mosimage}Quilts, fabric wall hangings, batik paintings on silk, and hand-dyed fabrics fill the gallery walls. The fiber arts in this exhibit give evidence to the range of talent and styles for contemporary fiber artists. Calvin Mims, the curator for the exhibit, said it best: “The exhibit is designed to take the viewer on a journey through the broad range of rich textile arts that are available in North Carolina.”
    So many of us have special associations with a handmade quilt. Perhaps it was something made for you by a special relative, friend or caretaker, something you may have created yourself or a magnificent quilt you have admired in a folk art museum or hanging on someone’s wall.
    I have been fortunate to have experienced all of the above, plus I view the exhibition from another dimension. When I see quilts being honored in a gallery I often think of the artist Miriam Schapiro. A feminist artist in the early ‘70s, Schapiro embraced the use of textiles in her work as a symbolic reference to the history of feminine labor. Since most women were historically excluded from “high art” and relegated to domestic chores, Schapiro celebrated this tradition by making works of art in a quilting format.
    Credited with establishing the movement called Pattern and Decoration (or P & D), Schapiro began an art movement that challenged the traditional Western European “high” art hierarchy of painting and sculpture. The consequence of raising quilting to high art can be seen in the art council’s exhibit. The traditional hand-sewn work (such as embroidery, quilting, cross-stitching, etc.) still crosses over into works of fine art, highly valued for their craftsmanship, design, details and beauty. Fabric has become the medium of choice for many fine artists.
    The wall hanging by Hollis Chatelain titled The Change will certainly make anyone pause, the pause quickly turns into a lengthy study in design and craftsmanship. The wall hanging is nothing short of remarkable! Chatelian changes the color of her thread and subtle changes in material like a master painter. From across the gallery floor, the wall hanging looks like a painting!
    Visitors to the gallery will readily see Chatelain’s talent. A background in design and photography has been converted to textiles. She began as a textile artist living in parts of Africa; after living abroad, she now calls Hillsborough home. Her work can be found in public and private collections in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and North America
    Tricia McKellar is exhibiting several wall hangings which focus on the subtle power of hand-dyed fabric. Stitching takes a backseat to her painterly composition of color and movement in her-dyed fabrics — subtle and atmospheric. 
    For the more traditional quilter, Tulip Dance by Annette Ornelas is one of four quilts being exhibited by the fiber artist. Very large in scale, Ornelas uses the value of black for the background to set off her brightly colored patterns. Traditional quilt patterns beam, patterns of colored lights against a night sky.
Anne Francis is exhibiting two very different styles of quilted wall hangings. In Dancing Deer, her highly detailed Art Deco deer is repeated amid subtle natural shades of greens, tans and browns. This work is in sharp contrast to her crisp lines and stark shape-colors in Victorian Window, a wall hanging made to look like a stained glass window. 
    Ann Flaherty, a local fiber artist who spearheads the Fabled Fibers quilt group, is also exhibiting. Although she does traditional quilting, in this exhibit she is exhibiting works which are more abstract and combines textiles with mixed media.
    Flaherty was an important contact for Mims. He commented, “When I was looking for artists to be included in the exhibit, I was given Flaherty’s name as someone to contact. I made one call to her and she ran with the idea of making this exhibit happen. She knows so many quilters and has so many contacts; she simply called artists and they sent the work directly to me at the council to select for the exhibit. I attribute much of the success of this show to Ann’s efforts.”
    A familiar local artist, Edwina Clark, is exhibiting seven of her batiks. Known for her distinctive style, Clark exploits the ancient medium of batiks to focus on women and children as a subject. Clark’s works are always well received and will be enjoyed by anyone visiting the gallery.
    Of the 17 artists in the exhibit, Maria Marois is the only artist who mixes printmaking with fibers. A printmaking student at Fayetteville State University, Marois is exhibiting stuffed dolls and prints sewn with yarn. Her dolls are made from fabric she prints by hand from her original relief prints (large linoleum plates were gouged and inked).
    Two of Marois’ images are framed monoprints, both made with layers of ink on heavily weighted intaglio paper. Each print is then hand sewn with various yarns to create texture and movement. In the work titled The Three Graces, three women appear and disappear on the abstracted surface of the paper, orange and green sewn yarn is sewn around each figure to separate them from the background. Marois’ images are unique and haunting.{mosimage}
    The Woven in the Fray textile exhibit, at the Arts Council should be a stop for the holiday season. Visitors to Fayetteville will enjoy seeing a quality exhibit that merges technique with style and mastery with creativity.     The exhibit stays open through Jan. 17, 2009. As always, the art council exhibits are free to the public, but please call for holiday hours at 323-1776.

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