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February 2, 2012 to April 28, 2012

A Sense of Place

Participating in the 2012 FiberPhiladelphia festival, the Philadelphia Art Alliance presented A Sense of Place, an exhibition of the work of eight women textile artists curated by Bruce Hoffman. In the exhibit, Hoffman, a former Director of Snyderman-Works Gallery, explored the theme of location, understood as both a physical space as well as a site in memory and experience.

The artists who contributed to A Sense of Place, Bhakti Ziek, Barbara Lee Smith, Wendeanne Ke'aka Stitt, Amy Orr, Ke-Sook Lee, Pat Hickman, Marcia Docter, and Marian Bijlenga, each represented a different technical and aesthetic tradition in fiber.

Each work in the exhibition connected in a physical or metaphorical way to a specific locale. Ke-Sook Lee’s work Green Hammock is constructed from US Army Nurse’s uniforms dating from the Vietnam War. Lee, who lived through the Korean War as a child, found the uniforms at an Army supply store, and recalls being struck by the way they were torn, marked, and missing buttons, and thus reflected the experience of the nurses who wore them. The form of the hammock suggests a temporary structure for relaxation (one which can be installed almost anywhere) but the fabric’s own storied history connects the piece to a specific time and place. In their way, each work in A Sense of Place challenged the viewer to appreciate the literal manifestation of the work in front of them, and to imagine the time and place to which the work refers.

Hoffman’s selection of works represented varied techniques and cultural traditions while casting a wide and imaginative geographic net. Wendeanne Ke'aka Stitt’s work Niho Mano is a contemporary rendering of traditional Hawaiian kapa cloth made from tree bark. Pat Hickman’s piece River Teeth is comprised of the pieces of wood that resist decay when a tree dies and falls into a river. Hickman sources these "Teeth" from forests in Maine and assembles them into a grid, effectively “weaving” them together into a pattern in new physical context. At the opposite end of the spectrum, artist Amy Orr uses post-consumer waste to create three-dimensional works. Orr uses credit cards to literally clad the exterior of a doll’s house in her piece House of Cards, a work designed to highlight the way consumption literally encircles our homes with debt through the acquisition of unnecessary objects. Artist Marcia Docter responds to her experience of competing in the Iditarod sled race by assembling a mixed-media basket upon which perch an array of stuffed birds who appear to be watching video footage of the sled race in Alaska. These works address the themes of site and memory in unique ways and all employ fiber in ways both traditional and unexpected. The inclusion of found objects and tree bark alongside more familiar woven or quilted works demonstrates the expanding range of what “fiber art” can be.

Tags: fiber, installation, mixed media