Hand Over Hand: Textiles Today
Many a stranger asked 21-year-old me what kind of art I was studying when I was finishing my BFA.“Are you a painter?” they (mostly) asked. And when I said, “No, I’m studying in the fiber department,” I would inevitably see a particular flicker cross their face, moving from perplexed to an attempt at connection: “Oh like sewing? Do you make clothes?”
That reaction never surprised me, but I always found the work of explaining what the “fiber arts” were (this is 1997) to be strangely difficult. The person waiting on my explanation often jumped into help: “Like quilts?” “Like crochet?” “Did your grandmother teach you?” And I was often answering, “Yes, but…” or “no, but…,” and not exactly failing to explain this form of expression, but usually coming up short. To stick with the mechanics of it (sewing, crochet, knitting, quilting) was to put too much emphasis on the skill of assembly (which is only part of the story), but at the same time, to explain the artform via the types of objects classified as fiber (quilts, tapestries, embroideries) was to shatter the field into too many parts – each deserving of a longer narrative about their histories and methodologies. What was clear however, was that the “idea” of the fiber or textiles arts (choose whatever term you prefer) felt in reach for most people. They had a kind of comfort and familiarity with the “things” that might make up the realm, eager to make connections to their own lives, experiences and families.
As I turned increasingly towards writing about art, I wrestled with the way artforms associated with craft were discussed. When talking about the glass, ceramic or fiber arts, the way something is made and the artist’s relationship to the material (a kind of dance with the elemental as much as a managing of its properties), is as important to the meaning of these objects as any narrative or symbolism they might deploy. Materiality is at the core in a different way in these disciplines, and it is what draws the maker and viewer together. In a recent catalog essay for the exhibition “Weaving Data” at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, I referenced Branden Hookway’s book, Interface when discussing the work of a group of artists – primarily weavers – whose work invoked digital technologies and spaces. Hookway wrote: “what most define the interface are the processes by which it draws together two or more otherwise incompatible entities into a compatibility.” The interface is the threshold between those entities. In this sense, fiber is a kind of magnetic threshold. It is a bit sticky, in that we can feel it in our bodily memory. The quilt, for example, can facilitate a connection between a viewer and maker on a different level – an affective level. We feel the quilt with our bodies, and we know it without rhetoric.
Hand Over Hand: Textiles Today is a glimpse into fiber’s prevalence in contemporary art. Its current visibility is a testament to something the discipline is capable of, that perhaps people are longing for anew: a bodily feeling of the world; an experience of ideas that enters through our skin as much as our eyes (even if, of course, we are only imagining the skin contact from sense memory). The interface we have become so familiar with – the one on our smartphones – only transports us to further disembodiment. The threshold that is cloth, however, situates humans back inside their form. It connects us to the other, through the intelligence of our bodies. Bodies that are hungry for interconnectivity. To be utilized for knowing.
The artists in Hand Over Hand: Textiles Today draw us closer through our memory of touch, the absorbency of cloth and the histories it carries with it. Do you feel the body of a former lover by your side when you see Basil Kincaid’s “Change is in the Air, Spring is on they Lips”? Does a story start to sink into your limbs as you study Erick Medel’s “Helados en la Playa (Ice cream vendor)”? Or maybe a knot of grief known mostly by your guts and little by your brain is roused by “Suspiro de un enredo” by Daniela Gomez-Paz. Try to move through this show with your whole being, reading and feeling in equal measure. What level of intimacy are you capable of having with these objects and ideas? How are you moved on a level that transcends your mind? We are so inundated with images today – moving around and through us at a speed that exceeds comprehension – that to take in an idea at the pace of absorption, is a pleasure that has taken on new significance. Leave the other hand-held interface in your pocket for now, and absorb this work and let it absorb you.
Shannon Stratton is a writer and curator based in Chicago, IL. She is currently the Executive Director at Ox-Bow School of Art in Saugatuck, MI.
About the Artists
Basil Kincaid (b. 1986, St. Louis, Missouri) is a post-disciplinary artist who honors and evolves traditional practices through quilting, collaging, photography, installation and performance. With found, salvaged and donated materials, Kincaid employs resourcefulness and freedom of imagination as critical components in the liberation of spirit.
Kincaid studied drawing and painting at Colorado College, graduating in 2010. Kincaid has exhibited works with Hauser & Wirth, Mindy Solomon, Kravets Wehby, Kavi Gupta, Carl Kostyal and others. In 2019, Kincaid debuted a first museum performance, “The Release,” at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis MO. In 2020 Kincaid received the Regional Arts Commission Fellowship. In 2021, Kincaid became a United States Artist Fellow and joined the Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In 2022, Kincaid debuted new quilt works in both the Legacy Russell-curated show, “The New Bend” at Hauser & Wirth’s New York and Los Angeles locations, and the Ekow Eshun-curated exhibition, “New African Portraiture” at the Kunsthalle Krems in Austria. Kincaid also produced a ceremonial installation at Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, wrapping a Manuel Neri figure in a quilt entitled “Take Me Home” just days after Neri’s passing. Thus far in 2023, Kincaid has exhibited “Dancing the Wind Walk”, a semi-permanent fabric monument during Frieze LA, with support from the Art Production Fund.
Brandon Opalka was born in Portsmouth, Virginia and after having lived and worked in Miami, Florida for over 20 years, is now based in Denver, Colorado.
In this work, I wanted to explore the intersection of painting and embroidery to express the beauty and complexity of nature. Through the use of vivid colors and intricate stitch work, I aimed to create a sense of movement and growth that speaks to the dynamic energy of the natural world. The result is a piece that is both decorative and contemplative, inviting the viewer to slow down and appreciate the delicate balance of our ecosystem. This work serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting our environment.
Coulter Fussell was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, an old textile town. She is the youngest family quilter, hailing from multi-generations of seamstresses and quilters. She produces quilt-works using discarded and donated textiles as her sole materials. Coulter has exhibited works across the country.
Coulter is a 2021 Museum of Arts and Design Burke Prize Finalist, the Jane Crater Hiatt Fellow and winner the the 2021 Mississippi Museum of Art Biennial, a 2019 United States Artists Fellow in Craft, the 2019 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Visual Arts Inductee, and the Finalist for the 2017 SouthArts Southern Prize.
Previous to becoming a full-time studio artist at the start of Covid, Coulter spent 20 years as a diner waitress where she lives in rural north Mississippi with her family.
Utilizing various kinds of natural and manmade fibers and objects, Daniela Gomez Paz crafts intersections between weaving, drawing, painting, collage, and sculpture. Born in Cali, Colombia, she immigrated to Queens, New York. Her pursued path in the arts and background in pedagogy led her to facilitate a wide range of programs with children, youth, seniors and families in schools, museums, and community centers. She acquired a Double Degree: BFA [Printmaking/Painting] & BA [Art History] from SUNY Purchase School of Art and Design and a MAT [Masters in Art Teaching] from Queens College. Currently, she resides in New Haven and is earning her MFA in the Yale School of Art’s Painting and Printmaking program.
Elana Herzog lives and works in New York City. She holds a BA from Bennington College and an MFA from Alfred University. Herzog received a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship. She was profiled in Sculpture Magazine, Summer 2020 issue. Herzog’s work is currently being exhibited in Inspired Encounters: Women Artists and the Legacies of Modern Art, the inaugural exhibition at the David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York. In 2023 her work will be included in groups shows at Albertz Benda Gallery, New York, and Mindy Solomon Gallery, Miami. She is preparing for a solo exhibition at the New Jersey Center for the Visual Arts, Summit, New Jersey which opens in September 2023.
Ema Shin is a Melbourne based artist who was born and grew up in Niigata, Japan. She studied printmaking at Tama Art University, Tokyo and completed a Master of Fine Art Degree at Aichi Prefectural Art University, Nagoya. She has held numerous solo and group exhibitions in Australia and overseas.
Her experiences have included a residency at the Australian Tapestry Workshop and many exhibitions include McClelland National Small Sculpture Awards, Victorian Craft Awards, Kate Derum Award for Small Tapestries (first prize 2017), the Tamworth Textile Triennial that toured to eleven locations in Australia.
Shin’s work presents body organs and flowers as symbols of her life and emotions. Her work incorporates tapestry, mixed media embroidery, printmaking and paper-mache and presents mental and physical experiences and the fecundity of the female body.
Shin’s recent solo exhibition Hearts of Absent Women which tours four locations in Australia is a celebration of the lives and energy of anonymous women through personal experiences with her own culture and Australian society. Her inter-disciplinary practice, application of historical techniques and use of tactile materials result in contemporary artworks that express femininity and sexuality.
Based in Los Angeles, Erick Medel was born in Puebla, Mexico in 1992. He holds an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.His work is highlighted in Strings of Desire at Craft Contemporary Museum, Los Angeles. Recent exhibitions include With Us at Ojiri Projects, London (2022, solo); Unseen Threads at Martha’s Contemporary, Austin (2022); a solo presentation at Zona Maco in Mexico City with Rusha and Co.,Los Angeles(2021); Hustling De Sol A Sol at Martha’s Contemporary, Austin (2021, solo); The Human Scale at Rochester Art Center (2021)
Frances Trombly (b. 1976 Miami, FL, USA) is based in Miami, FL, United States. She received a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including a solo project Frances Trombly: Over and Under at Locust Projects, Miami; Americana: Formalizing Craft at the Perez Art Museum Miami and united states at the The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT.
Her work has been featured in various publications including The New York Times, Art Papers, Sculpture Magazine, Surface Design Journal, and The Los Angeles Times. Trombly’s work is in the permanent collection of the Perez Art Museum, Miami and NSU Art Museum, Ft. Lauderdale, among others.
Trombly co-directs Dimensions Variable, an artist-run exhibition space in Miami, Florida.
Gonzalo Hernandez received his MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA in Fibers; and an MA in Painting. His work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; Vigil Gonzales, Cuzco, PE; Laundromat Art Complex, Miami, FL and Alianza Francesa, Lima, Peru. Hernandez has shown in several group show at LVL3, Chicago, IL; Kates-Ferri Projects, New York, NY; Icpna, Lima, Peru; Charlotte Street Foundation, Kansas City, MO; MCC Art Gallery, Arizona, AZ; Galeria Rebelde, Guatemala; MOCA in Georgia, Atlanta, GA; among others.
Hayley Sheldon (b. 1984) is a multidisciplinary sculptor and installation artist focusing on tactility and color. She received her BFA from the University of Central Florida in Drawing and Printmaking and continued her education at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Temple University Rome and the Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland. Hayley is currently represented by Uprise Art gallery and lives in West Palm Beach, Florida with her husband Jeff and daughters Violet and Willa.
Hayley is continually interested in experimenting with common materials and manipulating them in new ways. Her current body of work utilizes a catalog of shapes made by sewing directly into wooden frames, using the fibers to create a translucent color field effect. Hayley strives to blur the boundaries between contemporary, minimalist art and woven, fiber-based handicrafts, in an attempt to elevate methods and traditions often considered to be activities of the domesticated woman, and speak to the viewer in the universal language of color and form.
Joseph Awuah-Darko (b. 1996, London, UK; lives and works in Accra, Ghana) is a British-born Ghanaian contemporary artist best known for his multi-disciplinary practice of painting and woven tapestry work. His practice autobiographically references major broader themes of depression [mental health], spirituality and identity, as well as procreative sexuality.
Kerry Phillips is an installation artist whose artwork borders on performance and social practice. Phillips’ work with found objects is intuitive, often site-specific, and steeped in remembrance and storytelling. She uses common objects in unexpected ways, working collaboratively with viewer-participants to reveal an exchange of value, the importance and limitations of memory, and the vitality of play.
Born 1993 in Wrexham, North Wales, Anya Paintsil is a Welsh and Ghanaian artist working primarily with textiles. From rug hooking to embroidery, her assemblages evoke tactile tapestry on the one hand, and constitute semi-sculptural interventions on the other.
Loraine Lynn is an interdisciplinary artist based in Toledo, OH. She has earned degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Art and Bowling Green State University in Glass, Sculpture, and Three-dimensional Studies. She has exhibited work nationally and internationally in South Korea, Ireland, and Italy. She has been a featured artist at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion and has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and ChaNorth.
Malaika Temba is a Textile Artist currently based in New York. She has been moving her entire life: to Saudi Arabia, Uganda, South Africa, Morocco, then Maryland. Her lens and creative process are global, nourished by these experiences, and also influenced by art at the intersection of visuals and sound. In addition to her studio practice, Temba has worked as Assistant Art Director and Print Designer at Pyer Moss, a Design Consultant at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Textiles Department at the Rhode Island School of Design. Temba is originally from D.C. and Tanzania, and graduated with a BFA in Textiles from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2018.
Melissa Joseph is a New York based artist. Her work considers themes of memory, family history, and the politics of how we occupy spaces. She intentionally alludes to the labors of women as well as experiences as a second generation American and the unique juxtapositions of diasporic life. Her work has been shown at the Delaware Contemporary, Woodmere Art Museum, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Jeffrey Deitch Projects, MOCA Arlington and she has a 2023 solo exhibition at List Gallery at Swarthmore College. She has been featured in Hyperallergic, Artnet, New American Paintings, Le Monde, CNN, and Architectural Digest and participated in residencies including Dieu Donné Workspace Residency, Fountainhead, BRIClab Video Residency, the Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts, and will be in residence at the Museum of Arts and Design and Greenwich House Pottery in 2023.
Moises Salazar Tlatenchi is a non-binary artist based in Chicago, Illinois. Salazar holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Salazar’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at WOAW Gallery, Salon ACME 8, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, NADA, National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Chicago Cultural Center.
Salazar has been focused on conceptual and installation-based work. Salazar’s presentation Let’s get Physical facilitated by Filo Sofi Arts was included in HEARSAY:HERESY Spring Break Art Show to much critical acclaim. In Gracias a la Vida Salazar created a chapel to queer ancestry at Red Arrow Gallery. Most recently Salazar’s project Santuario, a large-scale altar, was presented at Skin in the Game, Chicago edition, curated by Zoe Lukov. A Finalist of The QUEERART PRIZE, Salazar’s work has been featured in publications such as The Hispanic Executive, artnet, HYPERALLERGIC, and THE LATINX PROJECT. Salazar has participated in the The Hyde Park Art Center Residency and is a recipient of LuminArts Foundation Arts Fellowship, 3Arts Make a Wave Grant and is a Fire Island Artist Residency recipient.
Mr. Star City
Nabila Valera, Ever been arrested at Niagara falls while you were dressed as a clown and went to jail in full costume? Ever slid down a dance pole in Miami dancing to Depeche Mode? How about paint murals in New York and accidentally smoked Angel Dust? Maybe get kidnapped in the Venezuelan mountains? 3 of those things are true. Which ones? Well, it’s your task to find out. Nabila Valera was born 1986 in Venezuela and grew up in Caracas, the capital. On long car trips with her mother through the country is when she first saw the art form known as “bordado guajiro”. This artform originated in the indigenous tribes of what today is known Venezuela & Colombia; and is evident as one of the main influences in Nabila’s art. It doesn’t come as a surprise that her ancestors can be traced back to the Andean region, and that indigenous genes run strong in her DNA.
Paolo Arao (b. 1977 Manila, Philippines) makes sewn paintings, textile constructions and site-responsive installations that are rooted in geometric abstraction. Arao mends this lineage of abstraction through the use of textiles; stitching patchworks that explore the elastic nature of queerness and reflects his Filipino heritage. Made with hand-dyed fabrics, second-hand clothing, hand woven fibers and weathered canvas, his works resemble flags, sails or quilts, often carrying physical traces of the bodies that wore them.
Arao received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and was a participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He has shown his work in numerous group exhibitions nationally and internationally and has presented solo exhibitions at the Columbus Museum (Georgia), David B. Smith Gallery (Denver), Western Exhibitions (Chicago), and Morgan Lehman Gallery (NYC).
Regina Durante Jestrow (1978) is a New York-born, Miami-based visual artist, of Italian- American heritage. Her mother taught her how to sew when she was a child, and she has utilized these skills throughout her practice. When she moved to Miami in 1999, she gravitated towards quilting and crochet skills to cope with homesickness. Jestrow’s artwork explores her ongoing research of the connections between women’s history, American quilt-making traditions, and geometric design. Jestrow’s exploration has led her to develop a body of work that includes art quilts, wearables, paintings, drawings, and sculptural installations.
Selected solo projects include “Pieces of the Landscape” at Mt. Sinai Skolnick Tower Surreal Center, organized by Oolite Arts, (2023), “Reinterpretation of Tradition” at Laundromat Art Space (2022), “Treble Flow” at Oolite Arts Walgreens Windows (2020).
Samantha Bittman is a visual artist and educator based in the Hudson Valley, NY. In her practice, she works with woven patterning to generate paintings, graphic wallpapers, and tiled installations. She has participated in residency programs at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and Ox-Bow School of Art. In 2012, she received the Artadia Award. Recent solo exhibitions include, Ronchini, London, UK; Andrew Rafacz, Chicago, IL; Morgan Lehman, NY, NY; and Greenpoint Terminal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. She has been included in numerous group exhibitions including David Castillo, Miami, FL; Shane Campbell, Chicago, IL; and Rhona Hoffman, Chicago, IL. Her work has been written about in The New York Times, Wall Street International, and The Washington Post, amongst others. In 2022, she founded Catskill Weaving School, an artist-run school that offers in- person and online weaving and weaving-related workshops, based in Catskill, NY. She holds an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design.
Vadis Turner‘s first solo museum exhibition was presented at the Frist Art Museum in 2017. Following her 2022 exhibition at the Huntsville Museum of Art, she is currently preparing for a solo project will be at the Abroms- Engel Institute for Visual Art. Turner was awarded the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2016.
Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, 21C Museum, Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts, Tennessee State Museum, Huntsville Museum of Art and the Hunter Museum of American Art. Turner’s work has been presented at numerous museums and institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum, ICA Portland, Andy Warhol Museum, The Bunker Artspace, Minnesota Museum of American Art, Islip art Museum, Knoxville Museum, Susquehanna Museum of Art and Cheekwood Museum. Residencies include Yaddo, Museum of Arts & Design, Materials for the Arts, Hambidge Center and a Fellowship at Vermont Studio Center. Selected press includes Artforum, Art Papers, New York Times, Hyperallergic, Two Coats of Paint, Burnaway, Wallpaper*, Elle Magazine, Vanityfair.com, Observer, Artnet, and White Hot Magazine.