In the Press
What they are saying about this exhibition
April 22–July 9, 2023
MOWA | West Bend
Celebrating all the rebels, innovators, and troublemakers—past and present
Opening Party | April 22
MOWA | West Bend
Despite—or perhaps because of—their ubiquity in our lives, textiles have been viewed askance by the world of fine art. MOWA continues the tenth anniversary celebrations of its West Bend modernist Mothership with Working on the Bias: The Fine Art of Fiber, featuring ten artists who embrace the diversity and expressive potential of fiber as fine art.
Some artists double down on the history of fiber arts as “women’s work.” Michelle Grabner subverts historical definitions by lavishing painterly attention on the humble gingham pattern deployed onto heavy jute canvas. Her liberal use of repetition and embrace of quotidian subject matter are eminently characteristic of contemporary high art. Sharon Kerry-Harlan elevates the tradition of quilting and dying as a message about Black identity and culture. Similarly, Melissa Paré dyes and paints on habotai silk, a diaphanous Japanese fabric that creates an ideal substrate for her luminous, floating images of the natural world.
Still others upend established modes of weaving and materials. Galen Gibson-Cornell sources his materials from the streets of New York, Berlin, Budapest, and other global centers. He slices and weaves found posters into hypnotic riots of color that evoke the dynamism of urban life. Marianne Fairbanks takes a different path to a visually similar destination. Fluorescent flagging tape woven on windows results in a sort of solar-powered quilt with all the vibrancy of an electric neon sign. Anika Kowalik works with Kanekalon synthetic hair to give voice to young Black narratives.
Linda Marcus and Steven Woodward explore the sculptural potential of textiles. Woodward works with braided rugs, an American tradition that dates back to the colonial period, but re-conceptualizes the genre as enormous three-dimensional forms that leap off the floor. Marcus mummifies domestic items such as recycled children’s clothing inside fiber shells, alluding to the preciousness of the individuals symbolized.
Top image: Jean Stamsta, UT (Tripod), c. 1971 (detail)
Support for this exhibition
generously provided by
—Additional support provided by the 2023 Exhibition Sponsors—
The James and Karen Hyde Fund
Thomas J. Rolfs Family Foundation