Museum exhibits art you can feel

When most of us think about what art is, the first images to pop into our heads usually involve paint, clay and charcoal. Fabric and thread, for the most part, do not fall into that initial spectrum we have created to encapsulate what art is.

It is easy to push fabric and thread creations into the area of fashion or, dare I say, your grandma’s afternoon hobby. Art is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination…producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” – which can be anything.

The Erie Art Museum’s exhibit “Focus: Fiber” shows just how beautiful and emotionally powerful cloth and thread expression can be. The show is put up by the Textile Art Alliance of the Cleveland Museum of Art every two years and will be at the Erie Art Museum through Jan. 18.

The show, with over 58 works from 35 artists, exemplifies the colorful and intriguing world of fiber arts. The artists use both synthetic and natural materials in a multitude of techniques such as quilting, embroidery, sculpture, surface design, wearable art and weaving.

I initially did not know what to expect with a fiber exhibit. I thought it would consist of quilts and knitted sweaters. As you walk through the exhibit, it is very clear that there was no intention for these fiber works to be anything but art. They were built and crafted with the intention to express a beauty or a message.

Each person can interpret that beauty differently, which is one of the most wonderful things about art. For instance, the work “Quilt Anatomy” by Marilyn Akerson-Corbitt instantly makes me think of Molly Weasley. For those familiar with the “Harry Potter” series, you will know that Mrs. Weasley is an ultimate mother figure. When I look at this work of art, I think of home and of family. I feel the comfort and togetherness of what I have always imagined the Burrow would be like.

Another work, “Time Passes Slowly” by Lynn M. Forbes, instills in me the breathtaking beauty of being in solitude on a calm summer’s day. She used various recycled fabrics and dyed them to create the piece. It is a well-executed image of some sort of marsh area with mountains in the background. I look at it and want to feel the breeze on my face. I want to sit in the grass and hear it crunch as I move, a consequence of the sweltering sun. I wish to hear the crickets and frogs and even feel those pesky little mosquitoes biting at me.

On another note, the work “Atrophy” by Diane Ramos instantly makes me shudder. Yes, it is beautiful, but this crocheted beauty brought alight my complicated relationship with my Molecular Cellular Biology class. When you see it, I think you will understand why.

“Camp: The Perils and Merits of Touch” by Maggy Rozycki Hiltner reminds me of childhood. Its floral and playful design makes me think of a sort of anti-memory. Long story short, I was never the little girly-girl, which is what this piece emanates to me.

Another piece, “Masquerade” by Ceres M. Rangos, reawakens my yearning to see Africa. This piece, a sort of fiber vase, is reminiscent of a tribal vase. It makes me think of the extensive research I delved into over the summer, with my plans to visit the continent of Africa in some distant future of my life.

This small sampling of what the exhibit has to offer is a good representation of what to expect. Although my examples and reflections seem to be very specific, I feel that this is what art is supposed to do. You want to create something that will impart an emotion or entice some forgotten sensation or feeling to come back to the surface.

If a piece of work can bring you somewhere, even though it is just in your mind, then it has done something worthwhile. For that, the “Focus: Fiber” exhibit is definitely worth a visit. Stop by the Erie Art Museum on 5th and State Streets before Jan. 18, to see this art materialize before your eyes.



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