Strange Ways

Unusual mediums are showcased at the Bayeux Gallery and the Foothills Art Center.

By way of celebrating the first anniversary of its opening, Bayeux Gallery owner and operator Carla St. Romain has mounted her most important show yet, the 3rd American Tapestry Alliance Biennial Exhibition.

Bayeux is an appropriate stop for this national traveling exhibit, because it's the only regional gallery specializing in fine-art textiles. But it's also unusual because this is the first time that the American Tapestry Alliance has presented its exhibit in a private gallery. Ordinarily it is seen in public institutions, as it was in 1996 when it appeared at Golden's Foothills Art Center. That was the only other time the Biennial has come to our region.

The show has two basic components: There are the nine artists who were invited to exhibit, and nearly thirty artists whose work was selected by a jury. In an unusual turn of events, the nine invitees were on the jury. Their decisions were not final, however; that was left to nationally known weavers Yael Lurie and Jean Pierre Larochette, who organized the show for the ATA. Some may see this as an ethical problem, but St. Romain points out that the pieces displayed by the jurors, which she describes as "stellar," should be seen only as an adjunct to the juried section of the show, which is larger than it has been in the two previous ATA biennials. Unfortunately, no distinction has been made between the two groups, either in the hanging of the show or in terms of quality of work.

"Concerning Burma," by Vance Kirkland, oil, water and gold on canvas.
"Concerning Burma," by Vance Kirkland, oil, water and gold on canvas.

Details

Foothills Internationale
Through August 20
Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street, Golden
303-279-3922
3rd American Tapestry Alliance Biennial Exhibition
Through September 3
Bayeux Gallery, 1133 Bannock Street
720-359-0990

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The show begins in the front of the gallery, where St. Romain has temporarily relocated the reception area. Hanging together on the south wall are a pair of pictorial weavings that make up "Diptych: Dreams, Visions, Memories," by Canadian artist Barbara Heller. The two similar weavings both depict a figure looking out through a window. On the left is the face of an old woman; on the right, that of an old man. There is also Hebrew writing on a sign. The setting is a ghetto in Krakow, Poland, where the artist's ancestors lived. The weavings are incredible in their details, with Heller quite accurately conveying things like peeling paint and broken glass. "That would be hard to do with paint, but with wool, it's unbelievable," says St. Romain.

Several other artists in the show use almost photographic detail to refer to recognizable subject matter. Standouts of this type include the tapestries by Sarah Swett and Anne Adams, both from Idaho, and Colorado's Kathy Spoering. Celina Grigore, the only other Colorado artist in the show, uses representation as a taking-off point for abstraction. In Grigore's "Dream in Black and White," the artist lines up conventionalized figures, animals and birds done in black wool across a cream-colored field made of silk.

Many of the tapestries are reminiscent of Navajo rugs, and, not surprisingly, there are more artists from New Mexico represented than from any other state. These include Irvin and Lisa Trujillo, Robin Reider, Rachel Brown and Ramona Sakiestewa. Part of the story is that northern New Mexico is a national center for weaving. "There are a huge number of textile artists who live between Albuquerque and the Colorado border," says St. Romain, who sees the continuing appeal of the New Mexico aesthetic as being important to the place of textiles in the art world. "The Southwestern style has created increased interest in weaving. It is the biggest influence currently for American tapestry weaving."

The Biennial, which will run through the beginning of September, will certainly attract many new visitors to Bayeux, and that's surely just what the plucky St. Romain had in mind.

The Foothills Internationale in Golden shouldn't be confused with last weekend's International in Castle Pines -- the former being a trio of art shows at the Foothills Art Center, the latter a golf match, which was held despite the absence of Tiger Woods. As was not the case with the golf tournament, the stars of the Foothills Internationale -- the works themselves -- showed up.

The three shows in the Internationale, though only nominally interconnected, somehow work together.

The first is the small but impressive International Women's Contemporary Stained Glass exhibit, which is installed in the Metsopoulos Gallery and spills into the front alcove and the connecting anteroom. It was put together by French-born part-time Colorado resident Marie-Pascale Foucault-Phipps, who has included two of her own pieces, "Glass Robe" and "Bobcat Fire 2000." These pieces, and those by the artists she selected for inclusion, reveal that Foucault-Phipps is not interested in traditional stained glass, but rather in work that pushes the edges of the material and oozes over into the realm of conceptual art.

"Glass Robe" is one such case. The freestanding piece, which is in front of a window, is made up of a sheet of transparent and flexible plastic that has been hung with cables between a steel support system. In a grid of plastic pockets are rectangles of clear, partly painted glass -- hardly the kind of thing that comes to mind when we think of stained glass.

Another innovative artist working with stained glass is Great Britain's Chinks Vere Grylls. In both of her pieces, she uses sheets of glass mounted like shelves in which she has etched words so that they reflect against the wall.

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