“Tangled: Fiber Art Now!” Redefines How We Perceive Knitting, Quilting, Crocheting and Felting

ROANOKE, Va. (Aug. 7, 2017) — The Taubman Museum of Art is pleased to present Tangled: Fiber Art Now! featuring the work of 11contemporary artists who are redefining how we perceive fiber arts such as knitting, quilting, crocheting and felting. The exhibition is on view now through Feb. 11, 2018, and is free and open to the public.

Tangled features sculptures, installations, video and performance work using fiber-based materials. It offers an eclectic mix highlighting our connections to nature, the richness and diversity of our culture, our body and our environment through artists who are revolutionizing the use of textiles and fiber,” said Amy Moorefield, exhibition curator and deputy director of exhibitions and collections at the Taubman Museum of Art.

Textile art, which encompasses embroidery, fiber art, knitting, crochet and carpet design, has its roots in the invention of weaving some 27,000 years ago. It is one of the oldest forms of human technology. Artists throughout the ages explored innovations with the medium, and the term “fiber art” began to be used to describe the medium after World War II.

Historically regulated to “women’s work,” fiber art was embraced by the feminist art movement in the 1970s. Since the 1980s, artists have pushed the boundaries of fiber art through the exploration of the materials and techniques.

“Now artists are using fiber art to both define and challenge current social/political issues such as gender, notions of family and women’s work as well as experimentation with materials that may not necessarily be defined under the rubric of fiber such as terra cotta, pearled pins, and dirt,” said Moorefield.

Arizona-based artist Angela Ellsworth’s embroidered Seer Bonnets navigates issues of the body in relation to gender, sexuality and cultural histories of the western United States. Exploring the history of her Mormon grandfather and his polygamist relationships, the project re-imagines a community of women pioneering an alternative history.

West Coast-based artists Ben Venom and Jimmy McBride riff off of traditional quilting practices to create large-scale work based on the mysticism behind heavy metal music and science fiction stories.

Virginia-based artist Kristin Skees’ work combines portraiture, knitting and a love of DIY culture in her Cozy Portrait series, in which she creates a custom knit cozy for each person in the project. While the final form is a photographic portrait, for her, the piece begins with the first conversation, and the first question: “Can I cozy you?”

Emerging fiber artist Meg Arsenovic explores societal boundaries with her vibrantly colored faux fur sculptures.

Mexico City-based artist Xawery Wolski creates dresses out of thousands of handmade terra cotta beads. Each piece is hand-constructed, fired and then meticulously painted, all strung together by sturdy thread to create a sculptural piece in the shape of a dress.

Michigan-based fiber artist Mark Newport challenges stereotypes of men by hand-knitting acrylic super hero costumes, which he then wears.

“Knitting is very slow. That contradicts the idea of a superhero as a man or woman of action. The superheroes that I make are generally male superheroes,” said Newport. “I like the contradiction that most people think about knitting as related to women.”

Both Oklahoma-based Rena Detrixhe and Los Angles-based Megan Whitmarsh have created site-specific installations for the exhibition.

Detrixhe’s contemplative work combines repetitive process with collected or scavenged materials to produce large-scale objects and installations. For Tangled, she created a rug from harvested red clay gathered in the Midwest, stamped with oriental patterns.

Whitmarsh’s soft sculptural installations reference contemporary pop culture and the 1970s and 1980s eras of her childhood. For the exhibition, she created the impression of a 1970s artist studio.

Alice Beasley tackles politically charged events with her fabric portraits that touch on difficult memories such as the death of Trayvon Martin. Beasley said of her inspiration, “One of the great things about being an artist is that even if I can’t change the world, I still have an unfettered opportunity to express my opinions.”

Philadelphia-based artist Caitlin McCormick creates skeletal bodies out of crocheted cotton thread and glue that allude to bird species. She pins them to velvet backings in antique specimen tables as homage to her departed grandmother who crocheted and her grandfather who carved bird sculptures.

Pairing established artists with emerging figures, artists in Tangled explore new horizons being developed at this very moment in fiber art while redefining how we perceive this ancient art form.

Tangled: Fiber Art Now! is on view in the Medical Facilities of America Gallery and the Temporary Exhibition Gallery.

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