Recently there was an interesting discussion as to what is fiber and in particular whether hand made paper was a fiber art in one of the textile groups I belong to. This got me thinking about what is fiber art. There must be a way to define it other than--you will know it when you see it.
I checked on Wikipedia--this was their definition. "Fiber art is a style of fine art which uses textiles such as fabric, yarn, and natural and synthetic fibers. It focuses on the materials and on the manual labour involved as part of its significance." OK--maybe this would be a start but I wasn't sure this was sufficient.
I then went to the website for the American Craft Council--after all you apply by category. No help whatsoever there--they say the artist can self-select the category they want to be juried in.
Then I realized I should check the web site for Friends of Fiber Art International --who would better define fiber than the group formed specifically to promote fiber art-- and found that they define a fiber art as "one-of-a-kind works...usually constructed of flexible materials using textile techniques." This can include sculptural baskets, quilts and tapestries among others. An interesting method of defining the work. A good start. Time to put it to a practical test.
Since I am doing the Long's Park Show this week-end I could easily look at some examples myself. My first stop was the booth of my friends Jeanne Petrosky and Dennis Guzenski of JPDesign This husband and wife team is creating paper sculptures that focus on the layering of textures and colors. Isn't it wonderful?
To make this work they use pigmented cotton FIBER and apply it to aluminum mesh to create a sheet of paper. Then they embellish it with various glazes and plasters to create a layering of textures and colors. OK--I guess this work has to be considered fiber art isn't it?
Worth taking a closer look at--and when you do, Jeanne titles each piece individually. These titles are great. Yes, definitely fiber art.
OK--that was easy. Now on to my friend Amy Gillespie. Now I have known Amy for years--way back when she was doing production fiber work--clearly wonderful pieces that were very popular and that gave her a firm background in fiber. But her new pieces are quite different. Very sculptural and sophisticated. Let me show you one of them.
Basically she is combining felt and wood to create abstract landscapes. As she said, you need to look at the work closely.
These are tiny rolled spheres of hand died felt. What labor and technique went into making each piece.
Here is a close-up of another piece:
Clearly felt is a fiber--after all felt is made by compressing fibers such as wool until they intertwine into a mat. That has to be a fiber technique. But as Amy pointed out, even her use of wood involves a fibrous material--since wood is a fiber. Interesting.
My next challenge involved the booth of David Bacharach. Yes, I wrote about his garden sculpture in a previous post on surviving in a challenging economy. But he also uses woven metal to create wall pieces. By definition weaving is a fiber technique and the metal has to be flexible to intertwine. What do you think?
My final visit was to the booth of Ausrine Kerr-- I just wrote about her work in my blog post about circles--my view from the show. As you may remember, she does also make wearable fiber and she views these prints as fine art. Certainly I feel that the category should be determined by the artist. However, they also seem to me to have a strong connection to fiber art.
These are portions of the piece Lithuanian Spring that I adore. In the first image you can see some of the dandelions and seeds that she silk-screened onto the fabric to represent the tenacity of the seeds. The second image is another part of the same close-up showing very clearly the use of the fabric to create a layered effect. Most of the work is an embossed print with painting.
By now my head is spinning--no pun intended. Fiber art is still art. But where do you draw the line? Is it just for the artist to determine? Why is there even a distinction? Do we need categories or is art just art no matter how it is made? What do you think?