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Talking Shop at Present Tense
On Thursday, March 26th, a full-house gathered in the American Craft Council's historic library for an evening exploring the current state of embroidery…
On Thursday, March 26th, a full-house gathered in the American Craft Council's historic library for an evening exploring the current state of embroidery as a counterpoint to the Bard Graduate Center’s current exhibition of historic textiles, English Embroidery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1570-1700: 'Twixt Art and Nature.
The evening kicked off with independent scholar (and former associate curator of modern art at the Seattle Art Museum) Vicki Halper who presented the evolution of contemporary embroidery art. Halper’s talk, featured here, focused on the richness and diversity of contemporary embroidery and, through a slideshow of images, explored the evidence of craft's utility, ornament, and ability to tell social status and to draw respect. She illustrated her points through images of embroidery witnessed in current and historic paintings, clothing, installations, tapestries, and woodcuts and through work created by current artists including Elaine Reichek and Richard Saja (featured presenters), Tamar Stone, Andrea Deszo and Judy Chicago to historic work evidenced in pieces by Renoir, Claude Monet, Flemish woodcuts of the 17th century and Elizabethan samplers from the 1790s. Halper's book, Choosing Craft: The Artist’s Viewpoint, will be released in May.
Directly following Halper, artist Elaine Reichek (a conceptual artist who uses embroidery to explore aesthetics in art) delivered a presentation about her artistic path, inspirations and viewpoints. Coming to embroidery through a formal concern with "the disembodied line that wouldn't adhere to the support,” Reichek shared her work with the audience, detailing her fascination and sometime obsession with mapping, pattern and the often humorous interpretations and translations that can occur from the cross-mixing of cultures, fables and stories.
And finally, Richard Saja, (one of the American Craft Council's very own Searchlight Artists this year - and founder of Historically Inaccurate Decorative Arts) took the audience on a tour of his work (cushions, sofa and bed headboards, among others), inspired by his love of embroidering and embellishing, in intricate detail, on toile. Saja admitted-almost sheepishly-that he comes to craft through the design world via self-taught means. His work is both humorous and sometimes vaguely dark, but intelligently and playfully crafted. Who wouldn't get a chuckle out of clowns cavorting across Pierre Frey toile-or a hand-stitched image of a dog-faced toile boy? Or landscapes of 18th century fabric designers (again, with the clowns!) at work while the factory 'burns' in bright embroidery threads in the background? Have a listen and enjoy!
Listen to Vicki Halper
Listen to Elaine Reichek
Listen to Richard Saja