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Arts & Entertainment

Fiberarts Guild makes modern 'Connections'

| Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008

In today's world, considerable time and energy are involved in making and maintaining connections, whether they be physical, business, family or emotional.

In the literal sense, making connections plays a vital role in creating fiber art.

Fibers and other materials can be connected using particular techniques such as binding, strapping, wrapping, lacing, weaving, sewing, knotting, zipping, etc.

In that regard, the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh recently mounted "Making Connections." Featuring 45 works by 35 artist members, the exhibit explores the traditional and nontraditional ways we make connections.

In this group show, the artists have used uncommon materials such as human hair, safety pins, staples, twist ties and telephone wire, to name a few, to examine ways we make connections in the modern world.

For example, Mary Towner's piece "FGP" actually is a chain made from connectable and otherwise disposable milk carton caps. Collected by several guild members, each cap in the chain bears the name of one Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh member as of Nov. 7, 2008.

"I moved to Pittsburgh six years ago knowing almost no one," Towner says. "The Fiberarts Guild became my first community here, offering meaningful and lasting connections."

The caps offer a unique way to express this transformative power of connection.

Many more explorations are on a more personal level.

Sharon Wall's massive quilt "The Mother, The Daughter, and the DNA Code" dominates the larger of the two galleries on the first floor that hold the exhibit.

Wall began the quilt after doctors had told her that her various health conditions were genetic. "I decided that I wanted to create a quilt about the medical DNA connections that may occur between female family members," Wall says.

Thus, the rainbow-colored silhouettes of the two life-size female figures in the piece actually are those of Wall's daughter (the thin one) and of herself (the stout one.)

"Our bodies are filled with an organic matrix of colors that relate to the color-coded medical images," she says. "The similar DNA markers above our heads are meant to represent our DNA code connections."

The two figures are united by the abstract "branches" with medical pictures, beaded DNA fragments and the random "veins" of batik crackle.

Patricia Milford also addresses familial connections with her piece, "Mothers and Daughters." One of two cloaks by the artist on display, Milford says the piece embodies the concept of making connections at a personal level. "The title refers to my connection with my mother, who taught me to knit and who knitted the leaves, which are on the cloak, and her mother, who taught me to crochet," Milford says. "In making the cloak, I felt a very strong connection with the women of my family, present and past, who were creative in so many ways.

Milford says the flowers represent the promise of women as mothers and daughters to create life, nurture it and complete the circle.

Penny Mateer, makes reference to her father, Dr. Frank Mateer, a renal specialist who died in 2006 at the age of 85, with her piece "My Dad's Pads, Things We Found in our Parent's House #1."

Basically, two prescription pads made of fabric replicate the actual pads her father used. Every prescription contains a quote of something her father always said -- such as, "We'll get you out of here in no time," and "Listen to the patient. He's telling you the diagnosis."

"My father was known for having an incredible medical mind," Mateer says. "Many of these he said so many times that they are part of our family vernacular."

Other artists made connections to the world at large, as in Laura Tabakman's delicate wall-mounted work "Floating Garden -- Connected through Air," which looks like little seed pods springing forth from the wall on thin wires. Blow on them, and they move.

Tabakman says: "We all share the same air; we breathe and move through it. This floating garden connects to the viewer through the small portion of air they share. When the viewer walks, moves, blows or even breathes the air close to the piece, the floating elements move in response."

The juror of this exhibit was internationally recognized fiber artist Nancy Davidson of New York City. In her statement, she aptly writes: "As an expression and a product of our complex visual and material culture, this exhibition is an even more appropriate metaphor for our mutual interconnectivity."

Perhaps no piece sums that up better than Atticus Adams' piece "Slumber of The Ancestors." Davidson chose the piece as the show's "Best of Show" prize winner.

An abstract work made of coated aluminum mesh, steel grommets and wire that looks much like coral on a sea floor, the work was inspired by an antique black crinoline he found in a trunk belonging to his grandmother. Speaking to the ages, he says of the piece itself, "It speaks of the connection of all those who have passed on and have left beauty as a testament of the life they led."

Additional Information:

'Making Connections: Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh'

When: Through Jan. 25. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; noon-5 p.m. Sundays

Where: Pittsburgh Center for the Arts , 6300 Fifth Ave. (Fifth and Shady avenues), Shadyside

Admission: $5; free to Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts members.

Details: 412-361-0873

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