Thursday, June 5, 2008

Review, Milwaukee Journal sentinel

Commentary forms fabric of textile exhibit

By BETTY BLEXRUD-STRIGENS
Special to the Journal Sentinel

Posted: June 3, 2008

In "Devotion to Thread," a new exhibit at Woodland Pattern Book Center, the do-it-yourself soul of underground craft culture merges with fine art sensibilities.

Devotion To Thread

The works of Faythe Levine, including "Union," are featured in the "Devotion to Thread" exhibit.

If You Go
"Devotion to Thread" runs through June 14 at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E. Locust St. Hours are noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Information: (414) 263-5001, www.woodland pattern.org or www.devotionto thread.blogspot.com
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As the show's guest curator, craft evangelist and filmmaker Faythe Levine gathered the work of 15 contemporary textile artists from across the country who celebrate the sewn stitch in both familiar and unsettling ways.

Much like the biannual "Art vs. Craft" fair Levine founded in 2004, the artworks in the show challenge us to rethink distinctions between things such as embroidery and drawing, embellishment and painting. For the artists in the show, needlework in its various forms documents time spent with something tangible in hand - a counterpoint to the increasingly virtual, digital world.

"What's exciting to me is to be able to pluck out people I thought would work well together, who do very different things creatively and aesthetically but have a common theme of working in thread," said Levine, co-owner of the indie art hub Paper Boat Boutique & Gallery in Bay View.

Lisa Solomon creates an ironic twist with "cozied target: a grouping" a series of vintage, paper rifle targets that she "mends" with thread. Making comment on the ubiquity of consumerism, Kate Bingaman-Burt, of ObsessiveConsumption.com, embroiders dresses, not with flowers, but with numbers - transaction amounts from her credit card bills.

Orly Corgan liberates vintage linens from the politeness of their era by embroidering them with decadent scenes that could be called "embroiderotica." Xander Marro of the feminist collective The Dirt Palace, from Providence, R.I., pieces together scraps of randomly sized fabrics silk-screened with odd imagery, such as ovaries with eyes, in her "Crazy Quilt." And in Melissa Wood's "Sunbonnet Sue Goes to War" one of the world's most recognized quilt designs gets a hard-edged update: she carries a rifle.

The selection of artists was not limited to women. Chris Niver and Steve Macdonald create works that reclaim forms handiwork traditionally associated with women, Levine said. Niver, the only Milwaukee-based artist in the show, stitches handkerchiefs in a calligraphic style reminiscent of book illustrations, while San Francisco's Steve Macdonald, (a.k.a. RamblinWorker.com) machine-sews dazzling cityscapes on gold-painted canvases.

Levine is also the producer and director of the documentary film "Handmade Nation: The Rise of D.I.Y. Art, Craft, and Design" slated for festival release in 2009.

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