By Michel Giotis
With “Common Threads: Art and Fiber,” the Petaluma Art Center continues to champion the dialogue between craft and art and where the two, well, intertwine.
The exhibit features 12 fiber artists working within a 10-mile radius of the Petaluma Arts Center, including Patricia Briceño, Marlie de Swart, Karla Jacobs, Alissa Kaplan, Carol Larson, Travis Meinolf, Joan Pont, Carol Lee Shanks, Marta Shannon , Kate Tatum, Jessica Teem and Susan Vorbeck.
The curators of the exhibition are Carole Barlas, Irma Vega Bijou and Llisa Demetrios, who have carefully observed the common qualities of this particular group of artists and their work. Uniting the dozen artists is their shared “passion, joy and enthusiasm” for what each could do with materials, local or not. The possibilities proved to be endless, from functional to decorative, from practical to artistic and from utilitarian to playful.
Many have worked by hand, invested in every step of the process of taking the fleece or fiber and creating a finished piece.
“For the past few years, I’ve worked with a fleece garment process to create my work. I start with wool that has been shorn off a sheep,” said Alissa Kaplan, one of the artists featured in the exhibit. “From start to finished garment, the process takes about 46 hours.”
Artists would often iterate on an idea, resulting in lush scarves and whimsical felt vases, expansive quilts and impressive structural sweaters, works of art grown here on our land, nurtured, shaped by local hands.
“I fall in love with each fleece and then try to preserve the essence of the wool and the color of the fleece when processing it. In many pieces, I incorporate the various preparatory stages of the fleece, the washed curls but unprocessed, to roving through coarse or finely spun yarn,” Marlie de Swart said. “Usually the fiber dictates what the final garment looks like.”
Similarly, Carol Lee Shanks likes the idea of using “…fibers that have been carefully grown and processed by people with close ties to their natural environment.” I find beauty in the unique characteristics these textiles possess.
According to the center’s website, “there was boundless and endless curiosity from every artist about what the fibers could do.”
Sometimes artists pushed the possibilities of the material into new and exciting expressions.
“I am a storyteller. With fabric as a medium, I layer text onto fabric and embellish with images, clothing, ephemera, and story-relevant stitches. Through the examination of socio-cultural values…” said Carol Larson. “I create a narrative that encourages the viewer to contemplate their point of view and potentially spark conversation.”
Conversely, Marta Shannon’s process brings the artist peacefully inward.
“There’s a meditative, rhythmic quality to weaving,” Shannon said. “It’s grounded and calming, especially in our busy lives today.”
‘Common Threads: Art and Fiber’ is on display until July 23. For more information, visit https://petalumaartscenter.org/.