Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art www.moca.org
November 19, 2006-March 5, 2007
FASHION + ARCHITECTURE = INSPIRATION
I find inspiration for my wearable art and quilts from books, by taking workshops, and by viewing a variety of museum exhibitions. My strong interest and connection to contemporary architecture has been a significant inspiration for my creative design, so my March 2007 visit to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art to see the exhibit SKIN + BONES: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture has given me many ideas.
This exhibit examines the shared techniques and processes used by fashion designers and architects to transform two-dimensional materials into three-dimensional designs which both shelter the body and express identity. Architects now incorporate the textile techniques of draping, weaving, printing, pleating, and folding in designing their buildings. Fashion designers use architectural strategies of geometry, suspension, sculptural shaping, and structural forms to increase volume and create unique dimensional “skins” that cover the body. Both are becoming more reliant on computer-aided design programs and the development of new materials in pushing the limits of their imaginations. This exhibit was exceptionally curated and documented, and included a fabulous selection of garments that illustrated the tectonic strategies of architecture, and powerful examples of cutting edge architecture using the vocabulary of textile design so familiar to fiber artists.
Two favorite displays featured Issey Miyake fashions. The Pleats Please clothing sample was a sizable display showing his innovative technique of pleating clothing onto paper. His APOC (A Piece of Clothing) display showed uncut garments of screen-printed polyester “denim” jeans. These garments are seamlessly woven on a tubular loom and then cut into shape. The wearer can choose to cut various shapes out of the tubular garment, selecting such designs as a vee neck, cowl neck, short-, or long-sleeve.
A bonus to this exhibit was seeing the Walt Disney Concert Hall located across the street from the museum. This astonishingly sculptural building was designed by Frank Gehry, and is known for its sweeping curved forms and textile-like stainless-steel skin. It resembles a sailboat in full sail.
I have found the following books and materials useful in stirring my imagination and making me more responsive to the power of art and inspiration:
Roger Von Oech, A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative; MJF Books, ISBN 1-56731-457-0
Jane Sassaman, The Quilted Garden, Design and Make Nature-Inspired Quilts; C & T Publishing, ISBN 1-57120-103-3 (The benefits of daydreaming), www.janesassaman.com
Peggy Haden, The Artist’s Quest of Inspiration; Allworth Press, ISBN 1-58115-358-9
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: a Spiritual Way to Higher Creativity; Tarcher, ISBN 1-58542-146-4
This exhibit was shown at the State Capitol and generated a considerable amount of attention by both deliberate attendees and those wandering through the Capitol as tourists or employees. A contentious Legislative Session contributed to the foot traffic as well! It was a pleasure to see the range of techniques and level of expertise represented by the 30 pieces selected for display.
My only disappointments were that Dallas had only one artist represented and that there was little documentation of the pieces on display. Several pieces were profound and complex, yet the viewer was left to wonder what materials and techniques were used, and what the motivations and inspirations of the artists were. Because this exhibit was intended primarily for the general public, it would have been helpful to have had better explanations of each piece. This would have given viewers a deeper understanding of the range of media and techniques used in contemporary fiber arts.
Leslie Klein’s series of three garments, all relate to the Mother figure. Her Smoking Jacket was a mélange of textures and surfaces stamped and embroidered onto silk noil, embellished with trims, all singed and burned away at the cuffs and hem.
Dangling Participles was the featured piece for the exhibit brochure, easily earning its place for its design, thoughtful content and innovative technique. Rachel L. Edwards-Ridder’s weaving of clear IBM Selectric tape on woven and stitched paper forms an ethereal grid, drawing the viewer into the work to study her deliberate words. Her Unsheathed printed paper, collaged high heel pump, with its beaded nail embellishments and exposed innersoles also shows her mastery of using the printed word in unusual ways.
Carmel by Iva Jenson was another intriguing entry. She wove a three dimensional map of Carmel using a colored printed map and a black and white map printed onto transparency film, offsetting each layer to create depth and illusion.
Missing due to display problems was the monumental Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, a huge cross stitch of the chapel ceiling that took Joanna Lopianowski-Roberts over nine years and three thousand hours to complete.
Also included was a large mosaic, dyed hide flag of Texas, a paper encrusted lace grid in a body form shedding its paper on to the floor, a laminated felt scarf, several quilts and soft sculptures, and cast paper pieces, and an appliquéd Western style leather vest.
The sponsor is the Texas Museum of Fiber Arts, a museum without walls, founded by Carol Ikard of Austin for the purpose of taking fiber art to as many locations in Texas as possible. This is an ambitious project which will serve to educate the public and to invite interested fiber artists in exhibiting their work.
For information and to download a membership form, see the website at www.texasfiberarts.org. Let’s see more Dallas area artists represented in the next exhibit!
The recent resurgent interest in feltmaking among Fiber Artists has spawned new interest in the nomadic structures of Central Asia, namely the Turkistan region, home of peoples known as “Turkmen.” The newly named countries of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are among the places where traditionally constructed felt yurts exist today. These portable dwellings are homes for the nomads in the steppes (plains) of Central Asia. Yurts are round structures, assembled with a lattice or trellis wall, a door frame, roof poles and a crown. The shape of the roof can vary. After erecting the lattice structures, large “mother felts” are wrapped around the outside framework for protection from the elements. These felts are made from wool shorn from the sheep that accompany the nomads, and the wood for the lattices is acquired through barter in other regions. Long tent bands or ribbons are tied around the circumference of the yurt. These bands are woven pieces that measure about 18 inches wide and 50 feet in length.
The Textile Museum is now featuring Turkmen weavings that incorporate a variety of techniques and reflect the intimate family histories of those who weave them. The colorful woven tent bands include a mixture of complex multi-media techniques, such as tufting, flat weaving, varying pile heights, and pile knots. Taking up to three years to complete, they relate the personal stories, designs, and artistry of their creators. When worn from exposure to the elements, parts of these bands are recycled for use as mats, rugs, and interior decorations inside the yurt.
The highlight of this fascinating and well documented exhibit was viewing the accompanying movie, sponsored by Sam Walton’s daughter-in-law. This movie features an Asian family constructing a prize winning yurt in a contest setting. Their entry took five years to complete and included lavish tent bands and interior decorations of rugs, wall hangings and tassels.
UPDATE: The Voice of America did a news story on the exhibit that was broadcast in Uzbekistan. (It’s entirely in Uzbek, but the piece does feature great shots of the pieces on display.)
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Japanese Tradition / Innovation in Cloth
The Baltimore Museum of Art
Through October 7, 2007 www.artbma.org
Since 2002, the Baltimore Museum of Art has been acquiring a small but superb collection of textiles manufactured by Nuno, a technologically innovative company named for the Japanese word for “fabric”. The lead designer of Nuno, Reiko Sudo, succeeds in blending the traditional craft of weaving cloth with cutting edge technology. Nuno produces textiles with both synthetic and natural fibers, as well as metallic threads, papers, feathers, engineered fibers, and unusual objects. The company has helped to pioneer and perfect many processes such as lamination, flocking, heat pleating, deconstruction and distressing, heat and acid processing, and innovative printing. Fiber artists are adopting many of these techniques, including laminated felting (also called “Nuno felting”), a process of embedding wool roving into a sheer fabric such as silk organza. Other prominent examples of Nuno’s influence on studio art techniques are rust dyeing, foiling, transfer dyeing on synthetics, and weaving insertions into cloth.
Reiko Sudo categorizes Nuno’s techniques according to Japanese elements and illustrates each with impressive mastery and diversity in this exhibit. The unique fabrics shown are complex in both design and execution, and push the viewer to rethink the traditional relationships one has with “ordinary” fabric.
KIRA is that which glistens or glitters and is represented in this exhibit by her Scrapyard Series of fabric, printed by acetified metal objects left over time to rust, thus imprinting random designs; as well as Rubberband Scatter, which mimics real rubber bands strewn across fabric. These are screened onto cloth using a blend of acrylic and silicone.
SUKE’ is the nature of sheerness and fragility. This element is illustrated by Delphi, a pleated fabric colorized by pressing sheets of transfer dyed papers onto the polyester during the heat setting process. Copper Cloth has thin copper wire wefts and exemplifies Sudo’s talent for combining unique materials with traditional manufacturing to create a sheer, fluid metallic fabric. Slipstream is a highly textured fabric with thin strips of Mino washi paper that float between two layers of organza, accented with tiny woven squares.
BORO relates to the concept of roughness or cruelty. Fabrics are woven and then abused with acid, burning, pulling, ripping, and roasting; this creates dimension and richly textural surface design. Moss Temple is a modern version of a thick velvet sandwich, sliced apart and distressed for an impressive three-dimensional impact that lures the viewer into the piece.
FUWA is the element of softness and airiness. Woven garments and accessories are characterized by innovative woven textures and surfaces. Tsunami Shibori Scarf has a geographic look, which is achieved by squeeze dyeing, and then pinching the fabric through a cardboard pattern and heat setting the tufted surface.
The Baltimore Museum of Art is a gem in the heart of the city. It boasts a contemporary sculpture garden set along a path that winds through tiers of stonework, providing the visitor with different vantages of its art and landscaping.
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