“Flight Patterns,” at Georgia State University through July 31, was originally exhibited at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, but, as curated by Dorothy Moye, it encompasses many possible meanings of “flight,” from Mary Edna Fraser’s batik on silk interpretations of aerial maps of the Gulf Oil Spill to Jon Eric Riis’s tapestry of Young Icarus.
In fact, angel-like wings are something of a subtheme, echoed in John Westmark’s wings made from repurposed sewing patterns in Double Ascent, the denim-cutout wings of Jim Arendt’s Ellie and the disembodied wings of Candace Edgerley’s Winged Flight.
Edgerley’s pleating of silk organza in a traditional Japanese technique of arashi shibori contrasts with Westmark’s and Arendt’s transformations of down-home American materials. Together they illustrate the wide range of stylistic options embodied in this show.
The exhibition features a full range of newer but now-traditional techniques. Christine Sauer collages beading and embroidery into a festive pattern on quilted fabric in the elaborate Orbit, while Adrienne Sloane gives us a pair of wire feet stepping into space from a knitted globe in Exodus.
The centuries-old practices include ones that were very little known in North America prior to the arrival in recent decades of traditional practitioners. Bounxou Daoheuang’s Lao chok weave Bird Kingdom is one example. Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga’s Macemanio (Conflux), an assemblage of beads, washers, crocheted metal wire and stitching on metal, is the Kenyan concept of Jua Kali — the chance effects that can be created out of discarded things.
Too bad there are no text panels to enlighten us with this information. One can, however, read the catalog, available online.
Some singularly lighthearted pieces turn out to have undertones that emerge only when one reads the labels. Andi LaVine Arnovitz’s I Think I Might Be Chicken Little is a dress made up of feathers, silk organza, film and threads. Each slip of film is imprinted with a worry, fortune-cookie style: “I worry about being lazy. I worry about being sincere. I worry about computer crashes. I worry about the sun collapsing. I worry about the PLO. I worry about Iron Dome.” Since Arnovitz lives in Israel, the latter two are realistic worries, more immediate and consequential than the trivialities and improbabilities that make this work of art so amusing.
A differently whimsical work brings to the fore just how much casual viewers do not know about the current state of textile art. Della Reams’ elegantly comic design Parasailing Pink Elephants consists, according to the label, of digitally designed, hand-manipulated, machine-knitted, hand-sewn, steamed, 100-percent wool yarn. It seems clear enough that Reams designed a digital file to be repeated by machine, but where the hand manipulation and hand sewing come in remains a mystery.
Also on exhibit through July 31, Velocity of Textiles, the 2015 biennial sponsored by the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild, was juried by Atlanta textile artist Jon Eric Riis, whose work appears in “Flight Patterns.” Although the show is less thematic, it too has an illuminating and visually striking range of techniques and a good many dazzling and/or surprising moments. For example, Johanna Norry’s Flock of Souls, which seems unprepossessing at first glance, turns disturbing once the viewer discovers that its materials include not just wool, silk and stainless steel, but taxidermy sheep eyes.
Linda Kuchma’s So What may be the most amusing commentary on the dialogue between experiment and tradition in fiber art. The pattern of this traditionally woven abstraction is interrupted by the large slogan “SO WHAT” in yellow letters. It’s uncertain whether the piece is asking whether this is all there is, or suggesting that solidly traditional work ought to be enough without this type of conceptual commentary.
On home page: Jon Eric Riis: Young Icarus, detail of tapestry.