Limitless is the only way to describe the exhibitions at Gallery 208 in Fayetteville. Each exhibition is an opportunity to share experimental contemporary artists, how curiosity has shaped an artist’s style and how material, sometimes the immaterial, can communicate an idea or feeling in a work of art.
Intersection: Textiles and Printmaking by Martha Sisk is the newest exhibition, opening July 12, and exemplifies an artist who has merged the boundaries of fiber arts and the art of print. The public is invited to meet the artist during the reception of Intersection at Gallery 208 on July 12, between 5:30 to 7 p.m., to view an exhibition of wall hangings and fine art prints. Visitors to the reception will see how effortlessly Sisk moves between fabrics and printmaking — each medium influencing the other, and the ordinary becomes extraordinary!
Whether it is fabric or printmaking, the core of this artist’s success is being inspired by nature and how fragments, or parts, can result in balanced completeness. Working methodically and intuitively, Sisk responds to pattern, color, shapes and texture to create cohesive designs and compositions.
Working with fabric since she was a child, as an adult Sisk continues to work with fabrics to create dolls, children’s clothing, quilts and wall hangings.
Her turning point towards creating nonfunctional fine art with fabrics took place in 2005 when Sisk attended a workshop on a “confetti” embroidery technique. Her piece, “Thank you, Monet,” is the result of the workshop and is being exhibited in Intersection.
“Thank You, Monet” is an 18” x 24” inch framed work created from an assortment of many, many small pieces of fabric arranged to create an image. Created by the “confetti” technique, Sisk and the other participants were inspired by pictures they took to the workshop. Many small scraps of fabric were arranged to resemble their images, the surface of loose scraps held in place with “tull,” an undetectable netted fabric, then machine sewn on top to keep all the small pieces of fabric in place. (On the label, next to the work, is a small picture by Claude Monet, which inspired her interpretation of his landscape using fabric.)
In comparison, fast forward to 2014, an 18” x 24” woven silkscreen in the exhibit titled “Borne Along by Dreams” is an example of how Sisk was influenced by her experiences in fiber arts to create an original type of fine art print. Rhythmic patterns of shapes of color and the surprising ways of creating a recognizable image by the unexpected placement of various textures are the results of her fiber arts experiences.
Since the 1970s, due to the Women’s Movement, there has been a growing interest in fiber arts as fine art. During the last thirty years, a true renaissance in fiber arts has taken place by contemporary artists — nationally and globally. Gallery 208 is exhibiting Sisk to share a regional artist’s response to fabrics by displaying her wall hangings and original prints as a way for visitors can compare the ways two different mediums have influenced each other.
Intersection is also an exhibition that exemplifies the ways in which artists respond to materials and the endless possibilities of any medium to express an idea. Sisk has been influenced in many ways to continue to work in fabrics and eventually printmaking.
“I am a collector of materials and tools, machines, patterns, books, paper and thread; I have a willingness to try something new, and a fascination with nature,” she said.
“In any work I create, I am always trying to share my love of nature — especially trees. Trees are so beautiful and fantastic no matter the shape, condition, size or type. I have an appreciation for forms and colors; I notice textures and see beauty in places and things many people might not. I see color most of all. I would like for the viewer to see what I see — beauty in the way I have used colors and shapes. Hopefully, the viewer will be transported to their own memory of places in nature.”
The progression from fabric to screen prints as a material for her work has been natural.
“After so many years of cutting up fabrics, it seemed natural to cut up unsuccessful silkscreen prints and use the colorfully inked paper surface in some way. What began as an experiment, cutting the silkscreen into long bands of color, then weaving them into an abstracted image, became an exciting way to work with the printed image.”
When asked about the pleasures of working with fabrics or printmaking, Sisk shared the importance of enjoying the process and working towards a finished product.
“Sometimes, solving a problem is a joy because the problem allows you to think in a different way — occasionally even allowing collaboration with a family member. It is satisfying to hear the solutions and work together.
For both, just being creative is a positive activity that makes me happy.
With fabrics, the art form includes so many variations that it is impossible to ‘get tired of it.’ Plus, it is a ‘clean’ art — requiring no water or solvents — nothing to clean up after I am through — except little threads on the floor and other little messes made from scissors and fabric. In printmaking, you have the advantage of multiples. But I like the monotype printmaking approach — weaving together parts to make one unique print.”
Since all mediums have their advantages and disadvantages, Sisk explained, “Since I don’t use plain fabric, it’s difficult to find fabric with the colors and pattern I like. I love tools, but scissors and needles can get blunt and thread breaks. Unfortunately, sewing machines themselves can break. Quite differently, the tools for printmaking are simpler — almost primitive — and not inclined to break. However, the supplies used in printmaking, like ink, can be difficult to get consistent for an edition. For me, printmaking requires more patience than sewing. In silkscreen printmaking, drying time prevails; after pulling one color, the screen must be cleaned, then areas blocked out and have to dry before the next color; drying time is required before one layer can be added to the older layer.”
Working with fabrics has always been an enjoyable hobby throughout her life, yet Sisk did not become a professional artist until after a non-art career. With the many responsibilities as a military spouse, Sisk earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Master of Arts degree for Exceptional Children in the late 90s and became an educator. It wasn’t until she went back to school in 2013 to take some art classes at Fayetteville State University that she decided to complete the FSU Visual Arts degree. While working on the arts degree, Sisk began exhibiting her work; as a professional artist, her works are in many private collections.
Intersection is more than an exhibit of works by Martha Sisk; the exhibit is a tribute to ways in which an artist explores the potential of material, alternate surfaces, shapes, color and texture.
Hopefully, visitors will leave the exhibit excited about the possibilities of any collection of supplies, crafts or art and see the potential to express and share something beautiful, an idea or a feeling with unexpected materials.
The public is invited to attend the opening reception for Intersection: Textiles and Printmaking by Martha Sisk on July 12, between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The exhibit will stay in the Gallery until Sept. 30. Gallery 208 is located at 208 Rowan St.
Hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 910-484-6200.