Fiber Philly where do I start? So much to say, so much to see....
I guess I just do. It was awesome, wonderful, exhausting, and at moments disappointing. I think today will just be a general overview and then in the next few days I will do specific reviews of shows and such. I made it down in in time for the keynote lecture and though the presenter, Elissa Ather, was incredibly well spoken and obviously super intelligent as is evident in her book String, Felt, Thread and the Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art, but none the less I was very disappointed by the talk itself. In many ways it felt like a summary of her book and since many folks in the audience had read it that seemed a little repetitive? The title of the talk was Fiber in the 21st Century Art World and mostly all that was spoken too was VERY well known examples of artists and work of the 20th century. For a historical overview of the fiber world and how it came to this place it was great. But to me it was like preaching to the choir. When you are speaking to a group of educated and knowledgeable artists working in fiber you do not need to to an art history survey of the subject. I was really hoping that the lecture was to take more form of what is happening now, what is exciting now, and what is the future of the field.
I do not mean in anyway to discredit the lecture as it was good for what it was. I just did not feel it was the right thing to kick off such a great and exciting weekend. None of the artist spoken to were on view as they are all artists that are WELL established in the art world. But I think the fault lied less in the presenter and more in the choice. She is an art historian. I think it might have been more prudent to have a curator speak instead someone who is really seeking out new talent and spending significant time in the studios of young artists. But of course this is coming from someone who really wants to see what is new not what is familiar. I know a number of people loved the lecture but I also know a number of people felt the same way as me.
And perhaps this is my one complaint about the weekend, excluding Philly's TERRIBLE public transit system. I was really hoping to see a lot of new and fresh work and felt like a lot of it felt very familiar, too familiar. In part this is because of the Internet we get overexposed to work before we have even seen it. I have thought about this issue a lot. But for the huge number of exhibits that were through out the city I felt like only a handful took any risk in their artist and work selection. Those handful of shows were super exciting but I wanted more to be.
an installation in process by one of the graduate students at Tyler on view as part of their open studios.
I guess though in general this is my feeling towards all things fiber focused. I love show that honor the past and established artists but also want someone out there to be taking risks and pushing the limits. To me there was very little of this. But... there was plenty of incredibly work, beautiful details, and WONDERFUL people which over the next week you will see.
I always feel this is a slippery slope for me, I am SOOOOO grateful to the place I have found in the fiber community but am also so aware that in reality I am and will always be from the outside looking in as a member of the fine art world. Therefore sometimes I am afraid that I will offend, as the rules are different, and in truth everyone is much nicer in fibers then the regular old art world. But at the same time we need outspoken voices and opinions to keep pushing things into the future.
I recently was getting a quote for an article from Owyn of the Textile Arts Center and what she said really ran true to me:
Because the heart of our mission is to preserve the textile arts, it is important to see techniques and their uses in modern and contemporary settings -- to see them transform and adjust to our modern world so that they will continue to be used.
What do you think? Did anyone that went to the weekend feel the same way at all?
I will focus on specific shows starting with the Crane Arts exhibit tomorrow which showed both very familiar work and very exciting work. A nice balance for the sort of anchor of the entire event.