Gallery Glance: Contemporary Textile at Salina Art Center

Casey Whittier’s “Weather the Weather/Whatever the Weather” (2018), earthenware and steel, 46 x 38 x 46 in., is part of the “Contemporary Textile” exhibit at the Salina Art Center through Oct. 3. (photo by Brandon Forrest Frederick / from the artist)

“Contemporary Textile,” the inaugural exhibit from the Salina Art Center’s new curator, Jefferson Godard, continues the dialogue initiated by former curator Gretchen Boyum, who came up with the initial concept for the show. It also continues the center’s tradition of including Kansas City artists in its exhibits and programs.

Examining a wide range of fiber art, including hand weaving, quilting, computer Jacquard weaving, and installation, the exhibit features work by Kansas City artists Kim Eichler-Messmer, Rachelle Gardner-Roe, Jason Pollen, Casey Whittier and Jillian Youngbird. Their work joins pieces from several Salina-based quilters, a digital/hand weaving from Eugene, Ore.-based artist Jovencio de la Paz, and hand weavings (with a poem) from Chicago based kg. 

“Fiber art is a passion of mine,” Godard said in a recent email, “having lived in Chicago and being so enamored with the practices of established artists such as Anne Wilson and Nick Cave, alongside new voices like kg.

The 13 artists in “Contemporary Textile” utilize a range of techniques and materials. In addition to thread and fabric, beading makes an appearance, as well as found objects, twigs and ceramic, as seen in Casey Whittier’s “Weather the Weather/Whatever the Weather” (2018). The piece is constructed of earthenware clay links using chainmail techniques that make it fragile, chosen by the artist to increase the sense of tension in the work.

“I chose the umbrella because that form has always symbolized a thin or false certain sense of safety from the elements to me,” Whittier said. “It mediates our experience and gives us the confidence to leave the house, but all it takes is a good wind or ill placement or holding it at slightly the wrong angle to end up wet and carrying something wet.”

Whittier cites a tongue twister she was taught as a child as inspiration: 

Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot.
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!

“In the face of climate change, I wonder what it means to teach the next generation that we can simply “Whether the Weather,” Whittier said.

“I am, still, an artist who consumes and works directly with earth extracted materials, produces more waste than is sustainable, and travels frequently to earn a livelihood,” she admits. “I am grappling with both the beauty of the hopeful proclamation that we will “Whether the Weather” and the deep fear that this will not be true . . . and that I will have contributed to a more tumultuous and fragile climate future for the next generation.”

“Contemporary Textile” opened Aug. 11 and continues through Oct. 3 at the Salina Art Center, 242 S. Santa Fe, Salina. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and by appointment. Admission is free. For more information, 785.827.1431 or www.salinaartcenter.org.

Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson is the editor of KC Studio. She has written about the visual arts for numerous publications locally and nationally.

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