Back in July 2011 I wrote an article titled "Where Are the Writers" addressing the lack of critical reviews for artists working with textile materials. With this in mind I was very pleased last week when a friend sent me a link to a review of the Fiber: Focus 2011-2012 exhibition.
Fiber: Focus 2011-2012 is sponsored by the Textile Alliance of the Cleveland Museum of Art and the show this year was held at the Canton Museum of Art in Canton, Ohio while renovations are being made at the Cleveland venue. This group has been responsible for many excellent exhibitions and their primary aim is to promote fiber art through education and the purchasing of art for the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
I immediately followed the link and read a review of the show by Dorothy Shinn, art and architecture critic for the Akron Beacon Journal.
Shinn is very clear that she was not impressed with the exhibition and establishes that starting with the headline: "Works in fiber show skillful. not powerful." She then states the idea that work is only serious art if its' inspiration is "current events" and goes on to list what she would sees as appropriate topics: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the election of our first African-American president; flooding, droughts, major storms and massive environmental damage; the wall street scandals and the subsequent economic disaster. Just reading her list made me feel bad.
Of course all of these topics are fine.....if that is what inspires you or interest you, but serenity and celestial rhythms, playfulness and pious ideas etc. are just as valid. Maybe we are all sick to death of the endless stream of negative headlines. I found Shinn's position on what can be the foundation for art depressing and strange. More important than my personal response to this list is the fact that artists are completely free to pursue the making of art any way we please. Thankfully this has been true for some time.
Go to any "open" medium art exhibition and tell me what you see. I contend that you will see work which was inspired by a very broad spectrum of concerns from "current events" to color and design relationships.
The second issue concerns Shinn's comparison of Fiber: Focus 2011-2012 to Fiberworks 1977. I did not recognize that title and, after contacting a friend who is a longtime resident of Ohio, I learned that Fiberworks 1977 was a very high profile international invitational. The work in the current show is a juried exhibition and draws on artists from an 8 state area around Ohio. This area has many wonderful artists but there is a vast difference in the potential of these two types of shows. It is an unfair comparison in scope, financial support and ultimate potential.
The international invitational had the entire world of textile artists to choose from whereas the 8 state juried exhibition had artists who were eligible due to their location and then only those who choose to enter could be considered to actually have work in the show. While the latter format can produce an excellent show, the chances that it will meet the same level of accomplishment as an international invitational is doubtful. This in no way cast aspersions on Fiber: Focus 2011-2012. It is simply a matter of numbers.
I'm glad that the Akron Beacon Journal is still publishing and still reserves space to cover arts events. I am glad that Dorothy Shinn selected this show to review. I do however wish she had talked more about the work that was actually in the current show and not so much about what she personally would have preferred to see and about a show that isn't available to be viewed.
Thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7. I love hearing from you so remember:
Commenting is Free!!!