Transformations: Artists Working With Fiber — 17-20 August, Birmingham, UK

September 12, 2006

Reviewed by Marion Barnett

Transformations : Artists Working With Fiber, an exhibit from Studio Art Quilt Associates, juried by Jane Sauer and curated by Peggy Keeney, had its premiere at the Festival of Quilts at Birmingham , UK , from 17 to 20 August 2006.

SAQA is a US based art quilt association with an international membership of professional quilt artists.

In her statement, Jane Sauer says that the exhibit represents ‘the exciting array of diverse and extraordinary quilts being made today…the many voices of today’s quiltmakers’. Diversity is a very difficult thing to manage, particularly in an exhibit setting, where visual coherence contributes to the success of individual pieces, as well as to that of the whole. This, for me, was reflected in the two entrances to the exhibit. At one, the viewer is met by a single piece, Genevieve Attinger’s mysterious ‘ Lazy River ’, with its interesting structure and bluesy feel. At the other, the viewer is met by three images, of which the most immediate was Alison Muir’s ‘Clean Up The Act’, a visually muddled if earnest exhortation to improve the environment in her native Australia .

Genevieve Attinger - Lazy River Alison Muir - Clean Up The Act

Genevieve Attinger – Lazy River
Alison Muir – Clean Up The Act

This was to continue throughout the exhibit: individual pieces showed outstandingly well, others disappointed, often on the same wall. I particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition of Eleanor McCain’s masterly ‘Black and Brown Study’ with Deirdre Adams’ dreamlike ‘Passages II’ and the elegant stillness of Leslie C Carabas’ ‘Reverence’.

Eleanor McCain - Black and Brown Study Deidre Adams - Passages II Leslie C Carabas - Reverence

Eleanor McCain – Black and Brown Study
Deidre Adams – Passages II
Leslie C Carabas – Reverence

Adding Jill Rumoshosky Werner’s compact yet energetic ‘Connected’ to that particular mix was perhaps a less obvious choice.

Jill Rumoshosky Werner - Connected

Jill Rumoshosky Werner – Connected

Occasionally, I was left wondering about the selection criteria, particularly with Gwyned Trefethen’s ‘Hanging by a Thread’, which, whilst impeccably crafted, was a strange mixture of images, styles and hues, as if three separate pieces were at war within it.

Gwyned Trefethen - Hanging by a Thread

Gwyned Trefethen – Hanging by a Thread

Overall, however, the exhibit was indeed diverse, which was, according to both juror and curator, the point of the exercise, though a more rigorous approach to the selection of pieces might have benefited everyone. And it was a pleasure to see works by august names such as Phil Jones, Ann Johnston and Emily Richardson shown in the UK . In summary, like the curate’s egg, this exhibition is good in parts. Where it is good, it is very, very good…but some parts of this particular egg should have been left on the edge of the plate.

Phil Jones Johnston Emily Richardson

Phil Jones – One Blue Square
Ann Johnston – Wave 4
Emily Richardson – Gumbotil

The exhibition can be seen in Colorado in November-December 2006, in Chicago in April 2007 and in Oregon in June-July 2007; further details are available here, on the SAQA website. It will be interesting to see if the hanging order is reorganized in these other venues, and the effect that might have on the overall affect of the show.