Sunday, March 18, 2012

Get your fiber! 8th International Fiber Biennial

In honor of the 8th International Fiber Biennial, we've staged our own little fiber performance art extravaganza, courtesy of a fabulous platinum acrylic Afro wig from Little Ricky's! (And they come in all the colors of the rainbow!) We're channeling our own personal Chaka Khan thing! (OK, with a little less panache...) (Images of Ms. Khan: &

Well, kiddies, now that we've gotten that little bit of frivolity out of our system, onto our more scholarly coverage of the real story:

On March 3, we traveled to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, to attend the 8th International Fiber Biennial, with events spread out across eight different neighborhoods. Rather than cram all of the events into a single, seemingly endless posting, we have chosen to split them into two. Today's posting covers the latter part of that Saturday - two fabulous opening events at the last two venues: Snyderman-Works Galleries and Crane Arts Center.


As a rule, galleries ask that photographs not be taken of the art works, so, much as we are always itching to record what we've seen, we are good guests and behave ourselves. Just before it was time to leave, we learned that in fact for the Snyderman-Works Galleries opening of the 8th International Fiber Biennial, photos were permitted. So we hurriedly took a few photographs, but these don't give you as full an idea as we'd like of the treats we got to see.

Nancy Koenigsburg's 2011 "2 Red" is prominently displayed in the window of Snyderman Gallery. It is constructed of coated copper wire. Unfortunately, due to the reflections on the window, our photo does not do it justice.

Artists Katherine Krone, Virginia Davis and Hillary Steel pose at the opening reception at Snyderman. Both Virginia and Hillary have pieces on display at the gallery.

Sonya Clark's "Black Cross Worn Thin II" consisted of multiple combs with various teeth missing.

Here's a close-up.

Lanny Bergner's "Canister for Round Objects" was decorated with wonderful animal-like spots.

We couldn't find the name of the artist for this piece, but we loved the interesting contrast in it. Since we were in the process of planning our Gloves posting, it clearly resonated with us.

This piece by Ann Coddington Rast is called "Sisters". Somehow we thought it represented us.

These two works by Amanda Salm (amusingly titled "So I Dye My Hair" and "I Want More and Thicker Hair") are constructed from horsehair and dyed with natural dyes.


We have to show you at least one photo from Snyderman's restroom. Freud said 'Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar', and sometimes a restroom is just a restroom. But Snyderman's restroom is so in keeping with their art - unexpected and delightful - that we had to include one shot. Should have taken a video to get you a seamless view of the entire room.


The last stop on the Fiber Philadelphia tour was an evening reception across town at the Crane Arts Center, which houses several galleries, all of which were hosting events. We were particularly interested in "Outside/Inside the Box" which was very large and extremely varied juried show.

It felt like old friends' reunion week -- with so many fellow New Yorkers making the trek south to either participate in the show or to view it and support friends and fellow artists. Jean and Katherine Knauer came to see works by Robin Schwalb and Nancy Koenigsburg. Robin's quilt is in "Outside/Inside the Box" and Nancy's woven copper wire construction is at Snyderman.

We were so pleased to meet Eileen Tognini who is associated with Collab, the Group for Modern and Contemporary Design at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), so we could tell her how much we loved Collab's current chair exhibit. Stay tuned for our future posting for more on the PMA.

Theresa Ellerbrock's "Moon", made of horsehair, won the Jack Lenor Larsen Design Award. This picture does not do justice to the subtleties of the weave and the shading.

Here is Theresa's other work in the show, "Fire Walk". Mounted on plexiglass, it is constructed of Belgium linen and silver thread, and painted with sumi ink.

Tamryn McDermott stands in front of her work entitled "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow".

Tamryn made the skirt she's wearing. If you look carefully, you can see TOMMORROW is deliberately misspelled using two M's, with one M then edited out with red thread.

This piece is by Rowland Ricketts, who studied traditional indigo dyeing in Japan.

Valerie loved this untitled chaotic embroidery of faces by Tod Hensley.

"Defense Mechanism" by Damia Smith was Valerie's favorite (hmmm - yet another on the glove theme...)

Here's a beauty that Valerie managed not to take the name down for. Anyone who can fill in the missing info is asked to write to us.

Here's a close-up.

This is a gorgeous and creative work in felt by Andrea Noeske-Porada. It's three dimensional, and the blacks, whites and grays you see are not shading, but different colored felts.

Hot Tip: Jean says: Because I have the attention span of a gnat and am notoriously bad at matching my notes to photos taken, I now photograph the label right after I shoot the artwork. Then I have the correct spelling of the artist's name, the year and title of the work and a description of the media. This is especially helpful when the work includes multiple components. (See the long list of ingredients involved in the making of "Lady Bug" further in this posting to see what I mean.) Here's the label for Anne Wessmann's work which took first place honors.

Here is the photo of the piece which took Best in Show honors -- Anne Wessmann's "Words Unspoken Series: 37,499 days - June 9, 1932 - Dec. 31, 1941". Constructed of text on vellum on foam board in 2009, the piece won the Patricia Malarcher Award.

This closeup of a section of the work gives a hint of the enormity and complexity of the project.

Robin Schwalb's wonderfully graphic quilt titled "Your Name Here" is made from cotton fabric and fabric paint. We actually know that the square part is called a QR code QR for quick response - how many of you knew THAT?! Now raise your hand if you know what it's FOR. (If you don't, write in, and we'll respond in Wednesday's post. Actually, since you're reading this on internet, you can google QR code, and find out faster.)

Here are just two of April Dauscha's 5-piece exhibit called "Exposed: An Armory of Physical Longings" made of muslin, boning, grommets, ribbon and dress forms. Jean says: Because of the opening night crowds, I could never get a clear shot of all five. This was on both of our top five lists. The giant-headed form reminds Valerie of Leigh Bowery.

Diana Savona's 2011 "Formal Argument" is constructed from a salvaged dress mannequin, tuxedo and dyed tuxedo shirt, vintage napkins and handkerchiefs, hand beaded ornaments. Here's the front view, heralding the ongoing debate about the difference between art and craft.

This piece speaks as loudly from the rear as it does head-on.

Brenna K. Murphy's 2011 "Untitled (Quilt)" was one of the more subversive, disconcerting works in the show, consisting of human hair, tissue paper and adhesive. This is a closeup of one portion.

Jan Hopkins' 2011 "Lady Bug" incorporates philodendron and eucalyptus leaves, grapefruit peels, yellow cedar bark, hydrangea petals, California poppy petals, California poppy petals, ostrich shell beads and waxed linen thread. (Jean says: See? I never would have remembered or correctly recorded all of these details on my own.)

June Lee's 2011 "Bystander" consists of 100 mixed media figures, all milling about a central black figure seated with head bowed. (They're all under a foot tall.) The work won the Judith Altman Second Place Award. Each of the figures is priced to sell individually.

Joetta Mae's 2010 "Waking with You", which dominates the center of the gallery floor, is made of hand embroidered, appliqued and painted re-appropriated linen and queen size bed.

Liz Collins' hilarious 2009 "Sock Monkey Suit" is strategically placed near the entrance to the large, open rear gallery space. The outfit is constructed of wool, angora, cashmere and silk.

West Coast artist Myrna Tatar's "A Language of Her Own" is constructed of hemp, plastic and various fabrics. It is placed on the wall across from the "Sock Monkey Suit", adjacent to "Bystander". Only a small portion from a central section of the large piece is displayed, with the rest rolled like a scroll on either side. The artist herself is quite lovely and although she engaged Jean in lively conversation and introduced her to her husband and fellow artist Marie Bergstedt, she declined to be photographed.

Marie Bergstedt appeared next to her wall sculpture "Dressing for a Delicate Condition", which consists of antique cotton crocheted tablecloth, molding stiffener and cotton crocheted thread.

In the first gallery space of "Outside/Inside the Box", just at the entry to the rear gallery is Gerhardt Knodel's elaborate 2011 "Woosh". Constructed of canvas duck, Tyvek, shell beads, cotton, horse-hair, wood, metal, acrylic, sisal, paper and electronic components, the piece is accompanied by a video documenting the piece and its meaning.

Designed as a carnival game, the work encourages the viewer to toss one of the balls which contains text from "Art In America" at the targets. Our take-away was that one purpose of the piece is to demonstrate how the role of art critic has come to limit rather than describe an artist's work, by comparing it to other artist's works, thereby forever cementing the link in the viewer's/reader's eye, rather than allowing the viewer/reader to reach his or her own conclusion.

As one of the hinged wooden and horse-hair targets is struck, the top half tilts backward, triggering a recording of a critic's comment about a work of art. It is both entertaining and thought provoking.

That room contained a number of really interesting works that we didn't get to fully appreciate, as it was very darkly lit.

What we're wearing:

Jean: Vintage Stetson bowler with black and white felt pin from Danielle Gori-Montanelli (from 11/11 Philadelphia Museum Craft Show), vintage bakelite jewelry, Comme des Garcons wool baseball jacket, Rick Owens turtleneck, Zara drop-crotch pants, black patent Doc Martens, and earrings by Japanese designer (still searching for the name), and High Use coat.

Valerie: In honor of the rainy weather we started out with, Valerie is dressed like a drowned rat. "What was I thinking?!", she gasped in retrospect.


  1. So many pieces of fabulous art here (definitely art, but well-crafted art!), I wish I could have seen these exhibits. We rarely get any textile exhibits here--the closest venue is the Textile museum in Toronto. The "Tomorrow" skirt is pure genius, as is "Woosh" and Anne Wessman's "Words Unspoken". I would like to have Sonya Clark's piece for my living room, and Ann Coddington Rast's "Sisters" for my bedroom.

  2. Just saw you in the trailer for the new documentary, the trailer is on youtube. You look absolutely fabulous and very interesting piece of film.


  3. Did we meet in Philadelphia? you seem to have taken better pictures of many of the same things I did. like the one of Tamryn McDermott. I have just finished writing a review of "A Sense Of Place" and story about the opening weekend of Fiber Philadelphia. I was looking for some names and you have provided them thanks. oh yeah i am the publisher of fibreQUARTERLY an on-line mag about textile and fibre work in and by Canadians