I have always walked a wary circle around the words "fibre artist" (or "fiber artist" if you must). It is not something I have ever thought of myself as being but people do call me that on a regular basis. I know that both Elaine Reichek and Janet Morton (two of my favourite artists using needlework) share my feeling that, for what we want to say, this fibre-y thing is working right now. Things may change - indeed I have been steadily drifting towards other media as my ideas have shifted.
Yet fibre-y things remain deeply attractive and compelling to me and so I find many metaphors to work through that require their use, conveniently enough. When I look around at what other artists are making using these materials, a lot of it is, to be brutally honest, contrived and kind of boring. It reminds me of when I was looking through books of 1970s fibre art last summer: 99% of the images were so predictable and dated but then, turn the page, and there was Anni Albers or Lenore Tawney. How to articulate why their work beams out in its strength while the others' works fade back into history.
There are artists working today in ways that feel fresh and sharp and unsentimental. These days, I feel like I am working ideas surrounding knitting and needlework more than the actual thing itself, so I am always delighted to discover people who are taking up the actual thing and making it new and exciting and relevant.
Here are three artists doing just that:
This is a work by Bethany Mitchell, an artist based in the UK. I came across her work as a link from another artist who I admire. I really like how she incorporates knitting and crochet with drawing without lapsing into cute or ironic. Feels very sharp to me.
Rilla Marshall is an artist living in Halifax. She has been making weaving that explore the communities where she has lived in Atlantic Canada. This is one of her latest pieces using fragments of coastline. I think she is on to something. It will be very interesting to see where she goes with it.
This piece, which I have a special love for given my interest in suburban sprawl, is by Mallory Weston. I stumbled across this piece when it was in an exhibition at the Hunterdon Museum in New Jersey. The artist is actually a metalsmith so I have no idea what possessed her to create it. It is called "Survival Bag".