Bewitched by Stitchery

Bewitched by Stitchery

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Ilze Aviks Improved Roses, 2008. Photo/Art Martin.

Muskegon Museum of Art
A Stitch in Our Time: The New Art of Sewing
Muskegon, Michigan
November 13, 2008 -
February 8, 2009

What's in a stitch? To some artists, everything. For Tom Lundberg, "Stitch by stitch the fluidity of thread is transformed into something layered and dense," and there's inspi­ration in the “symbo- lic intensity of badges and stitched emblems" and in "the storytelling traditions found in historic textiles." Carol Shinn's "technique of machine stitching comes from my love of drawing" and her stitches are "like pencil hatching." For Ilze Aviks, in works like Improved Roses (detail), 2008, "the random 'seed stitch' is repeated thousands of times and is the embodiment of persever- ance... The active gesture of paint on cloth is allowed to insinuate itself from beneath the stitches." Anna Torma is influenced by "primitive, outsider and children's art," as well as by "visual fragments from my Hungarian traditions." Jan Hopkins finds that "sewing and its repetitive motion" connects her to the "narrative soul" of each piece and that using "materials from nature" beckons her back home.

These makers, so diverse in approach, are among the 10 invited by the veteran fiber artist and educator Ann Baddeley Keister to show their works alongside her own in an exhibition at the Muskegon Museum of Art meant to highlight "the best contemporary artworks that employ the ancient crafts of sewing, piecing and embellishment." Keister, whose work has evolved technically from tapestry weaving to the embellishment of pieced and quilted fabrics, points out that the selected artists show reverence for traditional textile objects, but are hardly mired in the past. The works in the exhibition, she writes, "exemplify the transcendence that can occur when artists of vision employ a particular combination of traditional textile techniques, some- times coupled with...contemporary ideas." But technique, whether time-honored or new-fangled, is never the whole point when considering these compelling objects. It is individual voices, Keister says, "that instill the objects with magic, ... provide their content and context" and invite us to contemplate "the resonance of meaning and visual poetry evoked by these pieces."