The Art of Fiber opens at Featherstone

Lucy Mitchell's design using watercolor pencil on silk. — Photo courtesy of Featherstone Gallery

Julia Mitchell, a deservedly esteemed Vineyard artist, has close to 40 years of weaving experience and a resume that validates her international reputation. Her expertise and the standard to which she holds the craft will be in evidence on Sunday, Sept. 18, from 4 to 6 pm, in The Art of Fiber, the show she has curated for Featherstone Center for the Arts.

In addition to her own tapestries, the artist has invited the participation of an extraordinary assemblage of fiber artists who collectively demonstrate a sweeping variety of media and techniques.

“Featherstone asked me to curate a show on fiber, and I jumped at the chance to illustrate the breadth of what is possible within that category,” explains Ms. Mitchell, long affiliated with the Shaw Cramer Gallery in Vineyard Haven. “I first assembled, by invitation, some of my personal favorite artists and craftspeople, both from on- and off-Island, ranging from part-time amateur fiberists to high profile professionals, stars in their respective fields.”

The show features the work of 18 artists: Linda Behar’s embroidery, Marjorie Berlow’s tapestries, Sandy Bernat’s handmade papers, Shanti Bloom’s knitting, Peigi Cole-Joliffe’s mixed media assemblages, Christa Fischer’s felting, Pam Flam’s quilting, Eva Gallant’s handmade papers and knitted wire, Bill Honey’s basketry, Kari Lonning’s basketry, Lucy Mitchell’s painting on silk, Amy Nguyen’s surface designs, Rosalie Powell’s hooked rugs, Michele Ratte’s mixed media fibers, Nancy Shaw Cramer’s wearable woven art, Eleanor Stanwood’s felting, Ethel Stein’s multiple harness weaving, and Darlyn Susan Yee’s knitting and knotting.

“Julia has taught at Featherstone close to 10 years,” said Featherstone director Ann Smith, “and is an incrediable influence on students and on Featherstone.”

She continued: “This show, the first fully realized fiber art show, is an opportunity to showcase her as an artist and as a curator. She’s bringing work from around the country.”

All of the pieces in the show reflect Ms. Mitchell’s intention. Ms. Mitchell explained, “The common thread was that the work must be well, even elegantly, crafted.”

She subjected each offering to critical questions: Is the work excellently built, is it beautiful, and does it clearly exemplify important aspects of the medium that it employs? She said she was tempted to include international work – “There is some pretty great work abroad” – but resisted, “as I did not want to inflict the hassle and expense of international shipping on Featherstone or myself.”

Ms. Mitchell added, “I was also influenced in my decisions by a desire for balance between two- and three-dimensional work, high color versus neutrals, edgy versus traditional, and size, due to the space considerations in Featherstone’s Virginia Besse Gallery.”

The show is intended to have an educational aspect, and while some of the work will be available for sale, other pieces are on loan from private collections. There will be information available on each artist, some of whom will be attending the September 18 opening.

“It’s an opportunity to view fiber art at a variety and a level that has not been available on the Island in a single exhibit,” Ms. Smith said. “Julia is the special person it takes to bring this here.”

The Art of Fiber, Sunday, Sept. 18, through Wednesday, Oct. 5, at Featherstone Center for the Arts, Oak Bluffs. Opening reception: Sept. 18, 4 to 6 pm. 508-693-1850.