To be more specific -- Decatur. This once-upon-a-time small southern town is in the eastern part of the greater Atlanta sprawl, on the MARTA line, so still quite linked to the Peachtree heart of the city. Still, squint, and you might just be in one of Carson McCullers' stories. The old courthouse (now a history museum) governs the square with a sense of proper Southern decorum, and a passel of cafes and interesting shops gather round her skirts.
The ArtCloth Network met here this weekend with 15 women artists of the 27-member group on hand: Sharing work, eating, walking, lives, trading resources and sources -- a generous gathering. All of us are, in one way or another, dedicated to the idea that fabric yardage, created through various surface design techniques, should be considered art in and of itself. without having to be quilted (even as a whole cloth quilt), turned into a garment, pieced or stretched or displayed in an installation. Not that many of us don't do one or more of those things upon occasion, or even often. However, as espoused by this group and other artists in the field, cloth as art can be just that.
One would think that with so many anecdotal stories about cloth that is "just too..." to cut, stories one hears about almost any fabric junkie's stash, that such an art form has earned validity. But many exhibition venues, jurors, curators and even other fiber artists devoted to their particular art forms don't agree on this. The Art Cloth Network is just one such gathering of fellow travelers interested in promoting this idea, through education, exhibition and discussion. So, what do you think? Can artist dyed/screened/embellished/textured/painted/etc yardage be art or is it still unfinished until utilized in another art form? What makes it art?
Whatever the debate's outcome, here are a few snippets of images and ideas from the weekend sessions, in no particular order. (My photos were erratic at best, so pardon to those in attendance for quality and/or missing your piece/s.) ALL artwork is copyrighted by the artist and images should not be used without permission.
Lynn Harris's felted stitchwork and recycled tablelinens
Rayna Gillman's found-object soy batik
Wrenn Slocum's pixilated woods, fashioned from one-inch squares of acid dyed silk, flowing like water
Katherine Sylvan's dashingly sensual silk art cloth and scarves, using vat dyes, and also imagery based on arial view landscapes
Linda Campbell's weaving experiments, and her plans for folded fabric art cloth
Susan Ettl's desert inspired dyeing and art quilts using art cloth
Maggie Weiss's layered cloth with images that visually produce the sound of water over river stones
Sue Copeland Jones' deconstructed screenprinting with oak leaves, and sewing rediscovered
Peggy Sexton's dangerous plants and dangerous women installation ideas
Darcy Love's natural histories on cloth
Jan Giroud's color studies
Judy Langille's strong compositional studies, layers upon layers of torn paper shapes and dye printing
We worked on future plans, tied up the ideas for a couple of exhibition proposals, and traded stories about our lives as artists, business owners, students and teachers, mothers and daughters, wives and lovers. Stories tie us together and keep us sane, with the knowledge that we are not lonestrangers, but community in the making -- even when it happens in fits and starts, with disappointments and discouraging news, with jurors who don't get it and exhibit proposals that don't get accepted, members who move on leaving gaps, new members who haven't quite checked in. Still, we humans seem to need and heed this kind of coming together, and isn't it nice that in this time and with these women, the comings and goings are so broadly defined, so geographically and culturally rich.