July 4th - August 16th, 2014
Megan Morman, Vincent (Montreal), needlepoint, 10.5" x 13.5", 2012
By Zoë Schneider
Hi-Fibre Content serves as a sampler of sorts. It is a survey of the diversity within contemporary fibre found on the Canadian prairies. Fibre is a discipline that has evolved over time to encompass diverse processes, styles and mediums. A variety of influences can be found in the work represented in this exhibition; from the studio-era focus on craftsmanship and process, to the Do-It-Yourself RiotGrrrl movement. Process, site-specificity, intervention, collaboration and craftivism are all themes that are represented in this exhibition. Aesthetically, a few distinct styles emerged: recycled and lo-fi, quiet and meditative, traditional yet subversive. All of these themes, styles and influences come together to inform the work of these prairie artists.
Fibre art has the fantastic ability to engage on a familiar and comfortable level with its audience. Fibre exists in our daily lives on a constant basis; our clothes, linens, curtains, and upholstery are always in our visual and tactile space. We are comfortable handling fibre. We know what type of textiles we like or dislike; cotton, silk, polyester, linen, spandex. In addition, most people have at least some kind of connection to fibre process; whether it be the ability to sew a button, knit, the possession of a grandparents needlepoint or quilt. This familiarity affords fibre artists a special kind of connection and comfort level with their audience.
Both Mindy Yan Miller and FarLee Mowat have created works that are sparse, meditative and quiet. Incidentally, both artists work with hair or fur. Miller shaves cowhides in the style of Op Art. In doing this Miller circumvents the flatness inherent in the Op genre, “can the Op Art genre, which has been championed as purely ‘retinal’ be reformulated with materials that are real, particular and visceral? Or better: what happens when the optical play and confusion of Op is embedded across a visceral ground? Can the viscerality of the skin add a bodily dimension to the optical play?”1 In this instance, the texture and tactility found in fibre material challenge the previously held beliefs of a specific genre. Mowat embroiders human hair into circular shapes that intersect into a type of Venn diagram. In these embroideries the two intersecting shapes represent the relationship of two bodies, “These works experiment with concepts of identity, singularity and the change(s) that can occur when singularity is thrust into
relationship with another; an intimate look at those outside and inside forces that can challenge one’s natural state or ‘oneness’.”2 Both of these artists have used the physicality of fibre found in the hair/hide to inform the concepts addressed in their work.
Jill Waldron and Amber Andersen have both utilized text in their work. In embroidery and cross stitch, these artists have been able to critique two areas of contemporary life where text serves a unique purpose: the ‘Lost’ poster, and the text message. Text has a traditional place in fibre process: the ubiquitous cross stitch sampler, embroidered pillows, cross stitched ‘Welcome’ or ‘Bless This Mess’ signs. These are fibre objects that we are accustomed to. They are unassuming and easily digestible. Applying familiar fibre processes affords the artists an audience that is open to the ideas presented. With its origin in craft, fibre has long straddled the line between functionality and art object. Exercising this inherent ambiguous quality allows the artists to engage with their audience in an accessible way.
Megan Morman creates needlepoint portraits of Canadian artists just outside of her social circle. A small selection of this series titled Friends of Friends appears in Hi-Fibre Content. One cannot think of fibre process without recalling the social circles so often built around the act of knitting or quilting. The travel-ability of fi-bre allows for these social circles to thrive. The Friends of Friends series nods to the community minded tradition of fibre in a fresh, contemporary way.
It is the nod to the societal implications inherent in fibre process mixed with the materiality found in the media that exemplifies contemporary fibre. In addition to this and geographic location, it is the ability to draw upon the tradition found in fibre as a concept or tool that connects the artists in Hi-Fibre Content.
1 Artist Statement, Mindy Yan Miller, 2012.
2 Artist Statement, FarLee Mowat, 2012.