Whether silk, papyrus, cotton, thread or twine, fiber is woven through our collective history and serves as a tactile, sensory bridge connecting culture and community.
In the current Leedy-Voulkos Art Center exhibit curated by Valerie Bashaw, “Fine Art | Fine Craft: New Work by the Kansas City Fiber Group,” 13 fiber artists have sewn, quilted, knotted and embroidered often familiar, functional materials into subtly evocative works that enrich and extend this bridge. Creating from a process that is characteristically unrushed and meditative, these artists offer thought-provoking insights about our relationships with self, others and the environment.
In her rhythmic piece, “Unfolding Darkness,” Dora Agbas wove delicate wire and thread into robust yet nuanced waves that convey a formidable message about the challenges of contemporary life.
“The uncertainly of the future on a personal, community or global level, and the pressure to cope with rapid technological advancements creates anxiety, resentment and deep divisions among us,” says Agbas, who is also a biological research scientist. “Darkness unfolds and spreads.”
Susan Ferguson explores the connection between who we are as individuals and what we are as a culture in her mixed-media wall hangings, “Business” and “Forest.” Part of her larger project, “Environments,” these dynamic, highly textural pieces combine traditional fiber art materials with non-traditional elements, such as animal fibers, plastics and found objects.
According to Ferguson, contemporary fiber artists embrace this synthesis of expected and unexpected media, while they also explore new techniques. The reimagined interpretation of materials and techniques pushes past utilitarian expectations of craft, and roots fiber art in a fresh aesthetic identity.
“The opportunity to indulge in this sort of joyful alchemy for its aesthetic outcome is what makes fiber arts so satisfying,” Ferguson says.
Linda Jurkiewicz’s “The Responders” is a collection of more than 100 dolls created from repurposed and recycled fabric, cardboard and found items. The series was inspired by Egyptian Ushebtis, funerary servant figures representing the deceased and usually mummiform in shape. Ancient Egyptians believed that in the afterlife a person would be expected to carry out the same daily work they did in life, and Ushebtis were buried alongside the deceased to fulfill that need.
In her interpretation of the Ushebtis tradition, Jurkiewicz has created expressionless, 10-inch-tall female figures reminiscent of the mummy form but attired in understated clothing and accessories that symbolize stereotypical roles women have held in modern society.
“I believe that we’re still in a culture in which women are primarily considered caretakers,” Jurkiewicz said. “Hopefully, as women, we’re beginning to realize that our place in this world includes serving ourselves as well as others.”
“Fine Art | Fine Craft: New Work by the Kansas City Fiber Group” continues at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, through July 27. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. First Fridays. For more information, 816-474-1919 or www.leedy-voulkos.com