In Stitches

There's an unusual convergence of related art shows at many of the state's galleries, particularly those in Denver. Scores of venues have arranged their schedules to feature the topic of weaving (broadly speaking) in conjunction with the sixteenth biennial meeting of the Handweavers Guild of America, taking place at the Colorado Convention Center through Saturday, July 3.

It's unusual to see art venues coordinate their schedules in this way; the last time I remember it happening was in 2000, when the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts met here and fostered a cornucopia of clay shows. Interestingly, the textile extravaganza is only the first of two art-form celebrations this year. In October, photography shows will be on view at galleries all over town in honor of the Southwestern regional meeting of the Society for Photographic Education being held in Denver.

I love these things, because indulging in them is like taking a painless college course. Just going from exhibit to exhibit gives viewers a sophisticated understanding of some particular field. If you're like me, you know very little about textile art, because the field is marginal to the fine arts -- more so even than ceramics or photography. I guarantee you won't know most of the participating artists -- I know I didn't -- and that's good, because everything will be fresh.

The HGA, headquartered in Suwanee, Georgia, was founded in 1969 to "inspire creativity and encourage excellence in the fiber arts" by "bringing together weavers, spinners, dyers, basket makers, fiber artists and educators." This is the first time since the 1970s, when the HGA held a meeting in Fort Collins, that the group has come to Colorado.

The event, dubbed Convergence 2004, is being hosted locally by the Rocky Mountain Weavers' Guild, which has its own show, From Our Hands, on display at Denver International Airport. This location is convenient for conferees coming in from elsewhere, but it's pretty inconvenient for the rest of us. The exhibit runs through July 4; for information, call 303-342-2521.

There are a number of small exhibits and fashion shows at the conference, including Don¹t Fence Me In; Fibers With Altitude -- Garments With Attitude; Mountain Majesty; Queen of the Plains; and Trail Mix. (Day passes to the CCC for those not registered for Convergence 2004 are $10 per person.)

The real attractions, however, are those taking place off-site, and they're mostly free and all open to the public. Most were put together independently, but some are sponsored by the HGA, which, interestingly, contacted various gallery and art-center directors to lend their expertise and make recommendations.

The official HGA outing is Grand Fiber, a trio of exhibits on display at the Metro State Center for Visual Art (1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207). Grand Fiber includes The American Tapestry Biennial IV, Small Expressions and I Can See for Miles, all of which are set to run through August 7.

The American Tapestry Biennial IV is the main event among the three and is sponsored by the American Tapestry Alliance, which was founded in 1982 to "promote an awareness of and appreciation for woven tapestries by individual artists." The Biennial is an invitational and includes such American weavers as Anji Bartholf, Cecilia Bloomburg, Margret Herman, Katherine Perkins and Jon Eric Riis. There are also participants from Europe, the homeland of the tapestry form, among them Germany's Thomas Cronenberg, Italy's Luisa Dutto, Denmark's Birgtha Hallberg, Poland's Katarzyna Kordyasz and Belgium's Marika Szaraz.

The second of the three shows at the CVA, Small Expressions, is an annual sponsored by the HGA in which all works are smaller than sixteen inches in any direction. Arline Fisch, an internationally known artist, author and professor emeritus, was this year's celebrity juror.

The last of three CVA exhibits is I Can See for Miles, the biennial yardage show. This show takes the opposite tack from Small Expressions, featuring huge bolts of handwoven fabric made from both conventional and unconventional materials. Like Small Expressions, I Can See for Miles was coordinated by the HGA and was juried; in this case, the celebrity juror was Bhakti Ziek, a weaver, author and lecturer.

Next door to the CVA, the Robischon Gallery (1740 Wazee Street, 303-298-7788) presents Stitch, an exhibit pairing the work of Mark Newport and Darrel Morris. A reception is planned for Friday, July 2 from 6 to 8 p.m., with the show scheduled to run through July 21. Newport pushes the fiber medium into the world of pop culture by embroidering actual comic-book covers; Morris, who is also interested in pop culture, records mundane scenes that contain ironic content.

Installed on the sixth floor of the Denver Art Museum (100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000) is Changing Seasons: Coverlets From the Museum's Collection. These examples of functional textiles were commonly used for bedding in the mid-nineteenth century. They were not homespun, as might be expected, but were the work of professional weavers who signed and dated them on the corners. The title refers to the fact that the coverlets are reversible -- dark on one side for fall and winter, and light on the other for spring and summer use. The exhibit continues through October 17.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia