This Sunday, 50 Years of Fiber Art, an exhibiting celebrating the golden anniversary of the Fiber Artist of San Antonio, opens at the University of the Incarnate Word University’s Semmes Gallery. Fiber Artists from across the region and the U.S. present work inspired by culturally significant milestones of each decade since the 1970’s – fashion or design, pop culture, music, architecture, notable people, places or events, or even a more personal story about the artist’s experiences.
Juror Paula Owen selected 37 pieces from the 220 submitted. I had the fun of helping unpack some of those entries yesterday with the FASA team at UIW.
Each artist chose a decade to interpret, and interestingly, about half of them chose the 70’s. I love Terry Gay Puckett’s take on that decade (we were requested to give a statement about the work) – and apparently, so did the Juror!
My own piece reveals a bit more frustration about my chosen decade – the 90’s. That was when Technology discovered me and dragged me, kicking and screaming, out of my secure art studio. This mixed-media/fiber work, which is also in the exhibit, is called Digital Divide: The Last Kimono.
Until the mid-90’s I had been happily going along making art – particularly large-scale folded and framed paper kimonos – and then I was chosen to do a technology internship by the school district where I was teaching at the time. No more kimonos for me. The possibilities that digital tools offered were dazzling and frightening, and it turned my whole notion of art-making upside down. I eventually joined the Computer Science Department at Trinity University in 2004 – now that was a trip!
I have so many terrifying moments of that decade – crying because I didn’t know how to use a Windows computer since all I had used was Mac, calling the Ed Tech department at my school district because there were fish swimming on my computer monitor and I didn’t know how to get rid of them (It’s a screen-saver, Lyn – just move your mouse and they will go away.”), and mostly pretending that I knew what I was doing – wrong.
Artists generally think more globally than technology likes – digital proficiency is so hard because it relies on a completely different skill set than traditional art does. Many skilled artists realize that they’re beginners again when they switch to a digital art platform and have to relearn the basics. Look at this face – this is not a happy woman:
In my statement about this piece, I wrote: “It took another ten years before I found my way back to clay, paper, beeswax, and fiber, my instinctive, beloved media. This work is constructed of canvas from my old studio, torn, and imprinted with computer code. The 90’s decade of immersion in technology and the digital binary world continues to serve and influence me like a gift of fire – brilliant, indispensable and risky.” Ultimately, I am so grateful for the chance to learn the kinds of skills that let me bridge the digital world with the hands-on studio work.
All of us could tell stories about a particular decade that changed us profoundly. What’s yours? If you are in San Antonio and you’d like to see some answers interpreted through fiber art, come to the opening of 50 Years of Fiber Art this Sunday.
PS – if you look carefully at the poster for the show (above), you will see that the “button” that makes up the zero in the “50” graphic came from a photo I took of a detail of my submitted work when I designed the poster for UIW – that’s how digital art can combine with the real thing. Groovy!