"Hidden Histories" Abstract, naturally-dyed and stitched figures and textile works by three fiber artists: Sallie Findlay, figurative works; Karen Munson, quilts; Debra Spaulding, quilts.
On view from July 9-August 31, 2013. Reception: Sunday, July 28, from 2-5 p.m; with Artists' Talks starting at 2:30 pm
Sallie Findlay named the show. Sallie uses simple cotton sacks used by sea-scallop fishermen in Deer Isle for storing meat after shucking. She dyes the bags using natural dyes or "kakishibu," a Japanese dye technique involving fermented persimmons which she regards as the color of earth. Then she builds figures from the inside out: forming shapes, crumpling newspaper, molding forms, and wrapping and stitching until a figure emerges. Says Sallie about her work, "The materials I use reflect my deep sense of place, of community, of creatures, of memories and dreams. My figures emerge from my meditative journeys, with stops, starts, revisions, dances, songs, words, wings and wind. The well-worn pathways go back and forth across the landscapes of my imagination, with hidden histories of pain and joy, detachment and love, intimacy and solitude." Two of Sallie's pieces recently shown at the Wichita Center in Kansas were accepted as part of a National Fiber show, and her piece "Bound/Bond" received honorable mention and a cash award.
Artist Karen Munson is a minister with the United Methodist Church of Brunswick. Karen combines a life of expressions in both art and faith. She, too, experiments with dye immersion and subtraction to produce a palette of silk and cotton fabric scraps "too intriguing to discard." With "Remnant I" and "Remnant II"—the pieces on view in this show—she fashioned cloth into works that speak about the dichotomy of "forgiving" and "unforgiving" fabrics and of piecing them into a cohesive whole.
Debra Spaulding is an artist who paints and stitches in Bowdoinham, where she and her husband Dick raise cattle, renovate homes, and are building a new house that includes a grand studio. Debra has two quilts on view that depict "the intricate patterns and colors of organic matter and the natural patterns created by growth and surface degradation." She is drawn to barns, trees, rocks, weathered wood, water, doors and aerial views of fields. Of her work, Debra writes, "I am more interested in the essence of a place then in capturing the details, and work to preserve a more abstract expression of shapes, forms and lines."
Since all three artists enjoy using natural materials as inspiration or to dye and color their fabrics and fibers, their talk on August 28 from 2-5 p.m. is sure to interest artists, colorists, quilters and fiber enthusiasts. Refreshments will be on hand and the afternoon will be a lovely time to meet the artists, visit the galleries, and learn about summer happenings at this nonprofit arts organization.
Sallie Findlay: My figures began to take shape, literally, when I put the right materials in my hands, in 2012. This material is a humble one: a cotton sack used by sea-scallop fishermen for storing the meat after shucking. The bags speak directly of the island where I live, Deer Isle, Maine, a real place of intense beauty, clear air, and changing tides, and the site of many of my imaginative stories. I dye the muslin scallop-bags in various non-toxic natural dyes. One is from Japan, called “kakishibu” made from fermented persimmons. I see this dye as the color of change, the color of the earth. When dyeing the bags, I tie, clamp, and twist them, applying various “shibori” techniques. The resulting patterns enliven the surface and help call forth the stories within the sculpture. I build the figures from the inside out. The basic form emerges from the bags in my hands, then stuffed with used local newspapers. Local news stories are unseen but present nonetheless. Once stuffed, the crumpled newspaper can be molded, added to, and shifted, as the form demands. Next come wrappings and stitches to stabilize the shape and to add detail that tells more of the story. I may get a certain shape that remains on the worktable for days or weeks before I know how to finish it, as I await further inspiration. Then other materials from my environment, my history and my hands are added. For example: a bit of redwood fiber my daughter brought me from California; pieces of the fur coat my mother gave me 30 years ago; a knitted cloak I made from jute twine; a remnant of fabric I dyed in 2008. Then I stitch. I stitch parts in place; I stitch through layers of cloth to secure the shape; I stitch in specific patterns to decorate a bodice or define the lines of a bird tail. The materials I use reflect my deep sense of place, of community, of creatures, of memories and dreams. The colors come from nature, the processes learned from inspiring teachers. My figures emerge from my meditative journeys, with stops, starts, revisions, dances, songs, words, wings and wind. The well-worn pathways go back and forth across the landscapes of my imagination, with hidden histories of pain and joy, detachment and love, intimacy and solitude. Thank you for coming along. Tell me the stories that arise for you, by writing them in the guestbook. I’d love to hear them!
Karen Munson: Sometimes there are studio scraps too intriguing to discard. Remnant 1 and Remnant 2 began with experimental dye immersion and subtraction during a Fiber Arts class I taught at Kents Hill School. I love the way these particular samples preserved evidence of the messy dyeing process, rather than emerging as perfect products from the vats. A palate for working with them was created by discharging dye from favorite garments worn past their usable life. Cotton’s substance has a “give and take” that had now been visually pushed and pulled in the dye vats. Some call cotton “forgiving” because it is so easy to piece, giving in to curves and odd shapes. Remnant 1 and Remnant 2 pair the forgiving with silk that is structurally less flexible, “unforgiving,’ if you will. The resulting tension is accentuated by pieced curves. The light-bearing silk honors the odd remnants and makes room for them. My mother was a master of traditional textiles, making our curtains and clothing, reupholstering furniture, knitting and creating early American Style embroideries. Though she died when I was young, I discovered her copy and pattern book of Woman's Day Book of American Needlework (Rose Wilder Lane, Simon and Schuster, 1963) as a young woman, and began to fill in the blanks, choosing the two techniques she hadn’t tried: quilting and weaving. Traditional work led to experimental play that centered me and led to wonderful friendships while raising three children with a husband often away with the Navy. Working as an artist-in-residence in Fairfax, Virginia schools and as project director of “Art from the Heart of the City” initiatives in Washington D.C. transformed my way of working to improvisational methods. From 1998-2000, I was able to study indigo dyeing and shibori while living in Japan. When it became possible to attend graduate school, I struggled with whether I was called to continue with textile art or begin theological work to become a United Methodist Minister. What a blessing to find my new school (Wesley Theological Seminary) was centered on a working art studio and gallery! For thirty years my life has encompassed a duet between expressions of art and faith. Recent work keeps returning me to the way our physical world is ordered, disturbed, and reordered in the patterns of waves and particularity of particle. My work is spontaneous and intuitive, pushing and respecting the physical limits of the materials at hand.
Debra Spaulding: A self-taught artist, I use many natural and manmade structures as starting points for my work. I am repeatedly drawn to barns, trees, rocks, weathered wood, water, doors, and aerial views of fields. I am especially drawn to the intricate patterns and colors of organic matter and the natural patterns created by growth and surface degradation. I am more interested in the essence of a place than in capturing the details, and work to preserve a more abstract expression of shapes, forms and lines. I work in series and move back and forth exploring different subjects of interest. I rarely draw more than an idea on paper. Using a variety of commercial and hand painted fabrics, I work intuitively and use a process of constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing each piece. I use segments of multi-pieced fabric constructions and scissors to cut them into strips and shapes and then reconstruct them, adding additional fabric as I move through the design process to create the final composition. I use freehand quilting to complete the surface texture of each piece.