Everson Museum’s “AbStranded” Exhibition Showcases New Relevance in Fiber Arts



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Usually, the gray brutalist structure of the Everson Museum of Art designed by IM Pei would match the cloudy, gloomy aesthetic of a rainy Sunday in Syracuse. But there’s something different now: a 56-foot-wide tapestry of colorful squares hanging above the museum’s front wall. Rachel Hayes’ colorful “Flurry” is one of her latest works of art and is meant to turn heads as it hangs outside the museum, she said.

“(I was thinking) about how you can create some really huge things that have presence but don’t give you an imminent feeling,” Hayes said. “I guess I was looking for something like that, which had more weightlessness.”

The exhibition “AbStranded: Fiber and abstraction in contemporary art” is visible until January 2, 2022 and presents the work of 10 artists. Some rooms, like Polly Apfelbaum’s “For the Love of Morris Louis,” take up an entire room – floor and walls included – while others, like Samantha Bittman’s geometrically woven canvases, are smaller and more confined. Steffi Chappell, associate curator at Everson, said creating a space to showcase the fiber arts is essential right now.

“The fiber arts are often marginalized in modern art history, dismissed as just a hobby or hobby or relegated to the decorative arts,” said Chappell. “But now, more than ever, as researchers strive to broaden the narrative of art history, fiber artists are gaining new relevance and popularity.”


“For the Love of Morris Louis,” which Apfelbaum created for the Everson in 2015, has its own piece in this exhibition. But she also made a more recent piece in 2020 for this show: 10 bands of multicolored and multi-material weaves that hang vertically from the wall. While her 2015 piece is refined and geometric, Apfelbaum’s recent weavings seem more handmade, using eclectic materials like pom poms and beads that she says have all come to her “by chance or naturally” during the period. of its creation.

Apfelbaum created the artwork when she was in the early stages of learning to weave in early 2020. She mainly used materials and scraps from other artists and studios and fabrics from thrift stores that she did. she dated when she was a child.

“I also liked that there was a domestic quality and a familiar quality to the work and the materials, and that I could use it conceptually and formally in different ways,” said Apfelbaum.

Influenced by a range of art – from Bauhaus weavings and crazy quilts to 60s macrame – Apfelbaum said she aimed to merge “high and low” culture without judgment. She achieved this by using both cheap and expensive fabrics, pom poms and beads in the same long bands, all sewn and woven together.

But now, more than ever, as researchers strive to broaden the narrative of art history, fiber artists are gaining new relevance and popularity.

Steffi Chappelle, Assistant Curator at the Everson Museum

Planning for “AbStranded” began in 2018, Chappell said, and Everson originally planned to open the exhibit in April 2020. Once the pandemic began, the museum initially postponed the exhibit indefinitely.

Hayes said she started creating the smaller rectangles that make up “Flurry” in January 2020 and continued to work during the pandemic, although she was unsure when the exhibit would open.

Meanwhile, Hayes sewed up the smaller rectangles in the room, eventually tying them all up once she got the official go-ahead from the museum. She said the article prevented her from having “inactive hands” during quarantine.

“If you do things physically, I guess it just gets things done,” Hayes said. “This is when it turns to ‘art for the sake of art,’ so you’re just doing it for yourself because you want it to happen, not because there’s a date. limit, you’re working towards something more abstract. “

Throughout the pandemic, Hayes deliberately chose each square of fabric and cut them to 56 inches to reflect the dimensions of the Everson wall it would be hung on.

“It was just a flurry to go and the past two years have been a flurry. A lot of little things come together to do a big thing, ”she said.

She also had to be aware of the history and architectural design of the building when creating this piece, said Hayes, as she wanted to respect the museum as a work of art in its own right.

“Some people would probably think this is profanity or a degrading act, but I just didn’t want (‘Flurry’) to sound like a joke,” Hayes said. “I wanted it to be serious but also sincere and (a) a benevolent response to the building.”

Rafale by Rachel Hayes

Rachel Hayes’ “Flurry” brings movement and color to the facade of the Everson Museum compared to its original architecture.
Sydney Location | Deputy editor-in-chief of culture

‘Flurry’ communicates a lot about the nature of the fiber arts that the exhibition aims to highlight: the importance of color, craftsmanship, practicality and tactility over time was in focus. spirit of Hayes when she was creating the work. Everything from the colors she chose to the nylon fabric – the same fabric used in flags – was planned out so that she could count on it to survive and hold its shape over time in the elements.

There were colors that she ruled out in this piece that she had used in previous exterior work because she knew they would fade or tear as the piece dragged out in inclement weather, Hayes said. Instead, she chose colors like yellow and green, magenta, and two shades of blue that she knew would stand out against the gray skies of Syracuse winters.

“It would be sad to put something up there and not make it react with nature, because then it might as well be a billboard,” Hayes said. “But now, because the air can go behind him and lift those flutters and he does something, he lives, he belongs to the environment.”

This exhibition is not only about fibers and textiles. Its focus is abstraction in fabric art, and its influences and connotations can be directly attributed to gender and the term “women’s work,” said Garth Johnson, curator of ceramics at Everson. The curator added that fiber is undoubtedly “the most gendered of craft disciplines”, and the art of the exhibition explores this in new ways, through tradition, research and material.


There are 10 artists presenting a diverse range of work in the exhibition. Some have small canvases, others like Anne Lindberg’s “Blood Lines” extend over entire rooms.
Sydney Location | Deputy editor-in-chief of culture

While the artists agree that gender is not the first thing they hope viewers see in their work, Apfelbaum explained that it is so central to his art in the wider history of textiles that he is present in everything she makes.

“I am very aware of (gender) as a woman artist,” said Apfelbaum. “It’s another color, it’s something so ingrained, it’s another line, it’s in there. It’s so innate for me in the work I do, it’s my sensitivity, that I don’t think we can take that part away. It’s part of the job, part of my DNA.

But Hayes wanted people to pay attention to the genre of the artwork in the exhibit because she doesn’t want her work to be reduced to a single political or feminist statement. She added that the role of women in the history of fiber art is present in her work and can be seen in every square her mother helped her hem. The artist also wants viewers to find equal meaning in the form, color, and environment she uses.

Besides the works of Hayes and Apfelbaum, the highlights of the exhibition are the deconstructed rugs by Elana Herzog, the “queer” collages by Paolo Arao and “Blood Lines” by Anne Lindberg. Johnson noted Sarah Zapata’s “Standing on the Edge of Time”, saying that it encapsulates the show’s themes through her use of Peruvian fabric and the significance of that within her family and the wider textile culture in the country. Peru.

All of these pieces stand up to the expected guidelines of what “fiber art” looks like. These aren’t simple quilts or tapestries, but they are thought-provoking and challenge conventions in how they use space and traditional materials, Johnson said. Apfelbaum said the dimensionality of the exhibit is refreshing after a year of looking at art through a 2D screen.

“It’s so good that all of this work is about a certain physicality, and we all haven’t had that contact and I think my work is going to… create a space and fill it with people, because I think it’s important that people come to see the work and feel it, ”said Apfelbaum.

Contact Sidney: [email protected]


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