The following article appears in the University of South Carolina's daily newspaper, The Gamecock. This is a link to the website on which the article appears. It includes a wonderful slide show put together by Ellen Meder, who is as delightful as talented!
Gallery features artists bound together by online connection
Local exhibit showcases innovative artwork, unites creative minds from across country
Ellen MederSometimes the most unsuspecting communities are the closest knit. Cyber Fyber, an exhibit of the works of fiber artists from around the world, opened Jan. 8 at Gallery 80808 in the Vista. The show can only be described as the physical manifestation of a pre-existing, complex network of the creative blogs from people who weave equally intricate works of art.
Assistant Mix Editor
A concept of local Columbia artist Susan Lenz, the show features a diverse group of fiber artists' larger works in the main gallery, as well as hundreds of other artists' trading card and postcard sized miniature pieces.
The coordination of this revolutionary exhibition has been in the works for more than a year. In late 2007, blogging and reflection lead to one ultimate thought for Lenz.
"It was very, very obvious to me that the most influential thing that had happened to me that year was the gradual involvement in the international community with other fiber artists online," Lenz said.
Soon with a desire to merge the online community with her physical community, in addition to the fact that in her five years of renting studio space at Vista Studios she had yet to utilize her two free weeks of gallery space, Lenz produced the project now known as Cyber Fyber.
"I wanted to show other people how easy it might be, no matter what their interests might be, to be part of a global sort of group of like-minded creatives," said Lenz.
When Lenz announced her invitations to the exhibit, naturally via blog, the enthusiasm was immediate and the comments on the eclectic nature of the group were numerous.
One of the more unsuspecting artists is Nikki Wheeler, a 35-year-old mother who, until the opening of Cyber Fyber, had never exhibited before. However, with her dainty fabric scrolls erupting from a purple cube, Wheeler represents a younger generation of fiber artists, who utilize online sites such as the Ebay-like Etsy.com and refitted cigarette machines, called Art-O-Mats, to sell her unique work.
Across the room from the amateur is Dijanne Cevaal, a world-renowned fiber artist, author and curator. Though seemingly simple in concept, the intricacy and vibrancy of her tapestry-like piece, "All the perfumes of Arabia," is nothing short of exquisite.
Other highlights include Jill Werner's installation piece "Transformed" with its brilliance in color and concept as well as Penny Sisto's moving and mind-bending portrayal of a heart wrenching lynching in "Strange Fruit VI."
For those who still don't quite understand the amazing skill, patience and craftsmanship involved in the stitching of each of the pieces, Emmy Schoonbeek's "TAST Book of Stitches" gives gallery-goers a chance to actually hold and feel the many amazing ways the artists painstakingly transform fabric, thread and yarn into high art.
Schoonbeek is featured in the exhibit in more than her art though. Her likeness is featured in one of Lenz's Decision Portraits. A part of a larger installation concept called "Personal Grounds," each portrait confronts a major life-altering decision made by the subject, with stitched words that work in conjunction with titles such as "Teenage Mother," "25 Years Sober" and "Death Wish." One wall actually features four decisions made by four of the show's featured artists. In some ways the deep personal nature of each piece, stitched on tea-stained muslin, conjures a revitalized age-old concept that quilting is about storytelling; this online community not only impacts each member's artistic future, but helps chronicle and express their pasts.
But how to incorporate the hundreds of artists that could not be in the show?
"I made ATCs, artist trading cards, two-and-a-half by three-and-a-half, based on baseball cards," Lenz said. "I started with 130. Then I made 163 of postcard size. I thought it would take me all year and lots of begging to get them all traded. In less than six weeks they were all gone and I was making more."
In total, Lenz traded small pieces of work with more than 400 fiber artists from more than 27 different countries and all but five states. Best in show and people's choice awards will be chosen (tallying gallery votes as well as online comments) for each size category. The modest prize, leftover scraps from Lenz's studio and Columbia's House of Fabrics, is like hitting the jack pot for a fiber artist.
The full show is open to the public daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Jan. 20. In true multimedia fashion though, the exhibit is also posted in its entirety on the Cyber Fyber blog, http://cyberfyberexhibition.blogspot.com/, which is the hub of links to each individual artist's own blog. With the success of the show, Cyber Fyber 2 is already on the 2010 calendar. But Lenz, who will have pieces in two national juried competitions in the next month, has plenty of tricks left up her sleeve.
"I know it won't be a repeat of this," the ever-creative Lenz said. "It's important to me because any idea like this, meant to be reflective of evolution, must also continue to evolve."
Not knowing how long the slide show presentation would be available, I've copied the images and included the text that accompanied each image.
Above: Artist trading cards and postcards, all made of fiber materials, disply the unlimited range of possibilities from simply running stitches to elaborate beading or batik. Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor.
Above: Relative unknowns who learned all of their quilting techniques online are featured alongside writers of internationally published books and tutorials, such as Maggie Grey. Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor
Above: "Binary Humanity," by Maggie Grey, author of influential fiber art books, displays print outs of various comments left on her blog about the life changing nature of an online community. Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor
Above: Artist Susan Lenz has rented space in Vista Studios for just five years to professionally pursue her passion and experimentation in fiber arts. Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor
Above: With over different fabrics, Susan Lenz's quilt depiction of Mamie Smith is not only bue. It is exemplary of the blues singer's first recording "Crazy Blues". Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor
Above: Susan Lenz's self portrait, embroidered with the words "I quit my job to persue art," represents her 2001 decision to turn a life of working around art into a career of creating art. Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor
Above: Professional fiber artist Penny Sisto focuses her works on the diversity of people. Her piece "Strange Fruit VI" comes from her 2007 Slavery series. Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor
Above: "Wetlands," "Mother Earth," and "Midnight Lace" by Veleta Staffney were created as part of an online monthly beaded journal challenge. Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor
Above: 247 postcards utilizing an array of techniques keep visitors to the CYBER FYBER exhibit entranced for long periods of time. Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor
Above: Self-taught fiber artist Corinne Stubson specializes in altering books to create more three-dimensional art, such as "Flower Girl". Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor
Above: Emmy Schoonbeek's "TAST Book of Stitches" gives people foreign to the diverse world of stitching a detailed glimpse into the world and vocabulary of fiber artists' techniques. Photo Credit: Ellen Meder/Assistant Mix Editor