Sunday, September 2, 2012

Simply Artists

Making it in NYC by Joetta Maue
as presented in Surface Design Journal
Summer issue 2012
Artwork by Rebecca Reinquist Valentine

One reason to join a national organization often is to receive the journals they publish.  The Surface Design Journal is one such quality magazine.  The Surface Design Association is an example of a great organization with an excellent journal which presents well written articles and very clean design.

I am often guilty of not reading my magazines as they arrive and this was the case for the Summer 2012 issue of SD.  When I did finally open the pages I was very impressed with an article, Making it in NYC, by Joetta Maue.  

The article features work by artists who use embroidery as their medium and who live in or are involved with the New York art scene.  She presents her observations on how theses artists are seeking and receiving more solo shows with NYC galleries and how they are receiving this type of representation.

The article then presents work by individuals who are succeeding in this environment along with some very interesting statements.  One of the artist featured is Rebecca Ringquist Valentine.  She says: "Artists are drawing, layering, collaging, and painting with thread in much more conceptually grounded and narrative ways.  These are not cliche, subversive stitch samplers, but highly considered and developed works made with needle and thread."

The aspect of this article that was most meaningful to me was the assertion that this group of artists rejects the classification of "fiber artists"and choose to be simply artists who make art.  Bravo.  I have always felt that we do ourselves a disservice to separate ourselves into sub-groups and only show our work in arenas where we know for sure the work will be understood and appreciated.  I know that when I go to my studio I use the same creative processes that I always use whether I am working with wire and metal or fabric and stitch.  The only difference is the techniques that are required to achieve the work I want to make.

Michael Lyons Wier of Lyons Wier Gallery represents a number of artists who are exploring fiber techniques.  He states, "all artists must fully embrace their medium, in the case of fiber, they may have to go a little further with their conceptual and narrative agendas to be taken seriously."

I appreciate the truth of this observation.  It may not be "fair" but we bear the weight of a long history of textiles being outside the realm of  "true art".  Lyons also stated, "When they (artists) succeed in this challenge, it makes the work even more powerful."

Follow the link to Tod Hensley's blog to find the full article or order a back issue from SDA.

Other artists included in this article are Emily Barletta, and Elisa D'Arrigo.


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  1. Wier's quote on "conceptual and narrative agendas" -- how would you define that in plain English?

    1. I would define it as "they understand what their work is about and can communicate that with the viewer.

      While I do not personally believe that all work must have "a story" or be about more than the artists interaction with their materials and process, artists must have something to say about what they are doing and why they are doing it.

    2. Anonymous, I appreciate your question.

  2. This short quote may be relevant to the issue of "artists being artists" - it's from a newspaper article ( about a key moment in art, a purchase by Duchamp that was to revolutionise artistic activity. The author, Will Gompertz, says:

    "Until this point, the medium - canvas, marble, wood or stone - had dictated to an artist how he or she could go about making a work of art. The medium always came first, and only then would the artist be allowed to project his or her ideas on to it via painting, sculpting or drawing. Duchamp wanted to flip the hierarchy. He considered the medium to e secondary: first and foremost was the idea. Art could be constructed from, and mediated through, anything. That was a big idea."

    That was 1917. We're gradually getting there...!

  3. Thank you Margaret. I so appreciate you contribution to this post.

    I just received a link to a video that I found curiously connected to this question about "conceptual and narrative agendas" . The artist in the video is Dorothea Rockburne and she is very articulate about concept in relation to her work.

    Here is the link:

    Her part in the video begins at about 7 minutes into the piece.

    1. Wow, I just watched the video, Dorothea speaks in a clear manner to describe what excites her and why she makes her art. She says, "I make strong woman art." Her words resonate for me and in many ways, remind me of how I think about you, Terry.

  4. Yay, Terry! I stopped qualifying my work title a while back and it felt so freeing- no longer was I pigeon-holing myself into one category or another. I quickly realized, though, that after people ask me what I do and I answer with, "I'm an artist," THEY need clarification and always ask for it. I usually elaborate by saying, "I'm a painter," and for many people, that's satisfying. The ones who want details, ask, anf the ones who don't need more, don't; I'm happy either way!

    1. Good for you Judi! You have put your finger right on one of the big difficulties of this identification and that is a description of "what you do" that doesn't take your listener to the the wrong conclusion.

      I have one of those responses for what I do but I confess it is sometimes difficult to get out. Guess it's a work in progress.

    2. Hi Christine! Thank you for the compliment. Dorothea is impressive. To have gone to the Black Mountain School (only about an hour away from my hometown) must have been an unreal situation.

  5. I appreciate your succinct observations on this important topic. And fellow artist Paula Chung is one of those also featured in the SDA issue you mention.

    1. Thank you Pamela. This issue features many excellent artists. I only mentioned those whose work was pictured in the one article. I hope those who are interested will either purchase a copy of this issue or visit Tod Hensley's blog to read the article. I appreciate your comment!

  6. Thanks for "introducing" new artists, This has been inspiring and encouraging!!