Uncommon Thread Weaves Magic
through April 6
BG Gallery, Santa Monica
Written by Genie Davis
Curated by Danielle Krysa, an artist and author herself, seven terrific artists use thread as the tie that binds, in a show of lush, exciting, and highly textural material in Uncommon Thread. From glass to lace crochet, this wide-reaching exhibition at BG Gallery features the work of artists Michelle Kingdom, Natalie Baxter, Nike Schroeder, Carol Milne, Lindsay Arnold, Sarah Detweiler, and Ellen Schinderman.
Threads themselves are a part of each of the works, regardless of overall medium. It is delicately rendered, lush and intricate as webbing. It is tied, wound, twisted, sculpturally represented, and stitched. And it makes a feminist statement: it is emblematic of “women’s work,” of “crafted art” which is reclaimed here, in its beauty and power, as “real” art.
Natalie Baxter offers rich, gorgeous gold and multi-fabric work with as much political and social heft as sparkle. Baxter’s “The Perilous Flight” is one such piece, a thick, gold fringed representation of the American flag created in fabric with polyfil. It’s beautiful, it glows, and it exudes the irony of what has become of the land of the not-so-free and the greed that’s replaced the brave. The New York-based artist is known for her exploration of place and identity, gender stereotypes, and as she puts it “nostalgic Americana.” And, her take on the current socio-political dialog is inventive and filled with rebellious joy, as well as pointed.
Ellen Schinderman’s “I Have a Secret (I’ll tell you in the dark)” literally glows: a mysterious Cerulean blue glow-in-the-dark thread is embroidered on linen, creating minute text. It’s a riveting piece of dazzling color and detail. Equally accomplished is “Kiss,” a ripe, sensual, hand-embroidered work that features lips and finger. An incredibly perfect and tiny puzzle of needlepoint shapes the large-scale cross-stitched image in memory of drag queen icon Divine, in “The Filthiest Person in the World.” Her “Kintsugi Heart” is both realistic and evokes a Roman Catholic religious image. In recontextualizing images, Schinderman is also redefining the creation of these so-called “home arts.”
Seattle-based Carol Milne’s “Day and Night” is unbelievably delicate, light-filled knitted glass. Depending on the light, the color shifts, like the gossamer wings described in fairy tales. The golden “Alien” is also luminous, both literally and figuratively. Many of these cast glass sculptures are made with knitting needles included, creating the illusion of knitting in progress. They are jeweled in color, and the way in which they catch and transmit light makes a lustrous argument that knitted work itself is precious and fine. She has an extensive series of this work, and says of creating art with glass overall, that glasswork is both translucent and transparent, which is part of her passion for the medium, and that it can take on an “infinite number of forms and textures” that reveals interior and exterior purpose.
Lindsey Arnold’s painted panels are sheathed in a delicate, almost transcendent lace crochet webbing, some minutely suspended so that the lace work appears to levitate, just barely, above it. Her “Pinch an Inch” is both gorgeous and traditional, and deeply subversive, with a stunning lace doily pinched tighter by clothes pins – restricted, as, perhaps, a woman’s waistline, or her existence, is expected to be.
Nike Schroeder’s work streams in a waterfall of soft, alluring rayon thread. Both textile and tactile, it seems to move and flow, her thread, as if it were in fact water. Peach and blue, orange and brown, her work’s varied, often graded palette is filled with motion and shadow, it shifts and clarifies as the viewer takes it in. If her images were made of sound it would be the perfect ringing of soft bells. The international artist was born in Germany but now lives in Echo Park, there is a universal quality to her work, which is the stuff of shadows and rainbows, and an elliptical view of urban life, as in “Cityscape 1.”
Sarah Detweiler has created works in oil, watercolor and gouache, and now embroidery. Her purpose is to use that traditionally “female” art form to “challenge the boundaries of feminism.” Her delicate narrative and figurative art gives us women who are reaching for something, even as the artist herself is reaching, through multiple mediums, to blossom and grow. In “Regeneration of Hope,” branches, roots, all rise from a woman’s body, as complex and dazzling as the branching structures of dendrites, receiving impulses, and transmitting them in her art not to neuron cells but to the viewer. Her art has an emotional resonance that uses specific colors and her embroidered textures to reach past the representative, and into the symbolic and sublime.
Los Angeles-based Michelle Kingdom is a self-taught embroidery artist. Like Detweiler, she is creating detailed, narrative figures, but Kingdom’s work here inhabits a landscape, tells a visceral story. Kingdom says her work illuminates “thoughts left unspoken” and that she creates “tiny worlds in thread” filled with symbolism and allegory. Fragile but packed with meaning, Kingdom’s work is both thrilling in terms of its careful creation and exciting in relation to what it says. In “The Finest Trick,” two female rulers control the threads tied to the actions of a row of adult women, who in turn are the puppet masters of young women, locked in a dance that seems edged in violence. On either side of the image, women hold dolls: one has torn the head from hers, while the other carries hers lovingly. There is so much packed into this piece: control, conform, stay trapped, the illusion of being in charge – and that is the finest trick indeed.
This beautiful, powerful exhibition has been extended to April 6th.