Sunday, March 29, 2009

Columbus dispatch, review

EXHIBIT | OHIO DOMINICAN UNIVERSITY
Fiber pieces explore notions of feminine identity
Sunday, March 29, 2009 7:15 AM
BY CHRISTOPHER A. YATES

The fiber artwork of Melissa Vogley Woods is about dichotomy and uncertainty.
The pieces on view in Ohio Dominican University's Wehrle Gallery probe many levels of meaning.

Woods contrasts the past with the present, the feminine ideal with contemporary realities and childlike innocence with worldly troubles.

Almost every work is a dialogue with a quilt pattern called "Sunbonnet Sue." The pattern typically features a pioneer girl in a dress wearing a bonnet. Originating in the 1800s, the character suggests innocence and purity, and the pattern reeks of cuteness.

In Woods' hands, though, it becomes a symbol for uncertain identity. As a character, Sunbonnet Sue represents a nostalgic desire for the past. But, because we never see her face, she is, in essence, an empty vessel.

Woods twists the idea of purity with humor.

In a series of six separate images, Sunbonnet Sue is shown carrying different items. The titles all begin with I'm Sorry I Can't Shake Your Hand Right Now, I'm Too Busy . . . and conclude with a description of the object she casually carries under her arm -- trash, a church and a temple. In one, she points a missile.


For The Columbus Dispatch on two translucent layers (one with the image of the White House and one with a church), Leader Confusion questions conflicts between church and state. Multiple Sunbonnet Sues cling to both buildings. A rabbit symbol overlaps the structures, suggesting a need to reconsider values and beliefs.

Works with sheer, layered fabric are the strongest. A union of technique and form, they lead the viewer to thoughts of memory or the passage of time. In Leaning on a Crowd Cloud, a female figure is supported, pestered or perhaps overburdened by a host of Sunbonnet Sues. Stacked on top of one another, they hang from the figure's back and look like the feathers on an angel's wing. With the past on her side, Sunbonnet Sue seems to behave with both constructive guidance and vengeful malice.

At the heart of the exhibit is the question of feminine identity.

Historically, the art world has dismissed traditional craft. Burdened by stereotypes and sexism, quilting has always been "women's work." Expanding on the notion, Sunbonnet Sue is simply a vessel for "every woman." Tossed and turned by societal expectations, she is both driven and conflicted, powerful and weak.

With humor and insight, Woods produces meditations on the complexities of contemporary life. Deceptively simple, her message is clever and engaging.

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