By Don Wilkinson
Posted Mar. 9, 2016 at 10:34 AM
Updated Mar 9, 2016 at 11:42 AM
"You know that we are living in a material world. And I am a material girl." — Madonna
In 2013, prior to its merger with the New Bedford Art Museum, Fibers Month was instituted at Artworks!, and it has become a tradition each March ever since, growing to include new exhibition venues, including the streets. (Take note of the yarn bombs about town.) This year is no exception. Among the places to see fiber art this month are at the Regions Gallery at the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks, which is showing "Depending on the Weather," featuring work by Nancy Crasco, and Gallery 65 on William, displaying "Stitch by Stitch: Stitched Paintings by Elaine McBride."
"WARP/WEFT," hosted by Alison Wells at her namesake William Street gallery and curated by Kate Frazer Rego, is a group show of five women fiber artists, including Frazer Rego herself. Her "Labia Series" utilizes the colors and textures of fabrics, formed into three-dimension wall reliefs and complimented by the addition of found objects (doll parts, saint medallions, artificial flowers) to make funny, yet pointed, commentary about female sexuality and experience. One work, which has a title probably best not printed in a family newspaper, turns comical and exaggerated depictions of both the female and male genitalia into an oddly beautiful hermaphroditic hybrid. "A-Okay!" has a tiny pink doll hand giving the thumbs-up signal as it emerges from a clearly feminine place.
Emma Welty's "Solstice/Equinox," made of wool and cotton, consists of four small, speckled woven panels with a subdued earth tone pallet of ecru and dirt brown. There are some simple shapes, such as triangular wedges, half circles and Pac Man-like forms that don't quite hover over the backgrounds as they are fully immersed within them.
"Winter in the Gobi Desert" by Gabrielle Ferriera makes clear reference to the Mongolian ger (also known as a yurt), a round tent made of canvas or animal hides. Ferriera's version is small, like a child's play tent or for a couple's attempt at elegance on a camping weekend. Made from soft, cream-colored canvas attached to hidden PVC pipe, screen printed with decorative white patterns and illuminated from within by a single light bulb, visitors are encouraged to enter. There is something both sensual and spiritual about it, and one can imagine it being used for either of those pursuits. Or both.
Brooke Mullins-Doherty's fabric sculptures have tremendous presence within the space. Dangling from the ceiling are "Yellow Billow 1," Yellow Billow 2,"and "Orange Billow," constructed from fabric, wire, thread and "light," they glow with an animated warmth, like great hot-color clouds. Her "Wild Fate" features great tendrils of red, maroon and orange that reach off the wall like living things looking to caress or be caressed.
Kate Cope displays three abaca paper prints (yes, paper is fiber too) and all three works resonate with a childhood nostalgia of little girl dresses, jumpers and kindergarten outfits. Her "Mother May I?" is a pale sweet pink printing of silhouettes of clothing that Cope might've worn as a child. The prints land on a collage of faint background imagery that could be derived from the once-ubiquitous Spiegel sewing patterns that were in every five-and-dime a generation ago, or from paper doll cut-out books. They are charmingly effective.
"WARP/WEFT: An Exhibition of Fiber Arts" is on display at the Alison Wells Fine Art Gallery, 106 William Street until March 19.
Don Wilkinson is a painter and art critic living in New Bedford. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org