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.

Just west of the DAM, two galleries in a pair of old townhouses -- the Native American Trading Company (213 West 13th Avenue, 303-534-0771) and the Emil Nelson Gallery (1307 Bannock Street, 303-534-0996) -- are co-hosting the two-part exhibit Mary Zicafoose: Tapestries & Prints. Both the weavings and the prints, which are closely interrelated, are abstract interpretations of traditional Navajo rugs. An artist reception is planned for Friday, July 2, from 5 to 7 p.m., with the show closing on July 31.

Also nearby in the Golden Triangle, the Walker Gallery (300 West 11th Avenue, 303-355-8955) presents Substrata, a group show that includes pieces by Ilze Aviks, Josef Bajus, Jiro Yonezawa and Bhakti Ziek, who juried I Can See for Miles at the CVA. As is the case with many of these exhibits, the works included in Substrata go way beyond the concept of ordinary weaving: Aviks creates hand-painted linen stitched with abstract patterns in luminescent threads; Bajus does painted paper stapled together; Yonezawa makes baskets; and Ziek uses computerized looms to create her textiles. Substrata closes July 3.

Just southwest of the Golden Triangle is the Santa Fe Art District, and the galleries in this area have also gotten into the fiber act. Capsule (554 Santa Fe Drive, 303-623-3460) presents Plush: Perverse Playthings, an exhibit of works made of or inspired by stuffed toy animals. Artists represented include Steven Antonio, Aaron Barker, Markham Maes, Breonna Noack and Katie Taft. Plush opens July 2 with a reception from 7 to 11 p.m. and closes August 7.

A couple blocks up the street, the Sandy Carson Gallery (760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-573-8585) is hosting Woven in Wondrous Ways, a three-artist show that features pieces by John Garrett, Rusty Scruby and Anna Skibska. Again, the work is hardly traditional, with Scruby doing ink-jet prints, Garrett creating mixed-media hangings and Skibska weaving glass rods. Woven in Wondrous Ways closes July 31.

One block farther, at the Museo de las Américas (861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401), is Traveling Bolivia Through the Wonders of Weaving. The exhibit explores the rich heritage of Bolivian weaving, both historic and contemporary, with ponchos, bags, blankets, hats, belts and other functional items, most made by women. The show, which runs through August 28, also includes looms and other tools used by the Bolivian weavers.

In northwest Denver is Edge Gallery (3658 Navajo Street, 303-477-7173), which is hosting a show that includes cutting-edge work by local artists Theresa Ducayet Clowes, Kim Knauer, Jennifer Pettus and Gail Wagner, among others. New Directions closes July 11.

In the funky northern reaches of central Denver is Studio Aiello (3562 Walnut Street, 303-297-8166), where FIBERish: Summer Fiber Arts Invitational opens Friday, July 2, with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. The show contains the work of several well-known area artists, all of whom push the envelope in terms of fiber -- hence the "ish" suffix. Participants include Rokko Aoyama, Viviane Le Courtois, Lauri Lynnxe Murphy and Dismas Rotta. FIBERish stays up through August 13.

In addition to these in-town venues, a number of suburban spaces are also participating. The Museum of Outdoor Arts (1000 Englewood Parkway, Suite 2-230, Englewood, 303-806-0444) presents Small Format Frontiers, sponsored by the American Tapestry Alliance. The show opens with a reception on Friday, July 2, from 5 to 9 p.m., and closes July 9.

At the DAVA Gallery (1405 Florence Street, Aurora, 303-367-3886) is Attachments, featuring work that explores art, science and the human body. Pieces by Lindsay Obermeyer and Karen Searle are the primary offering here, but they've been supplemented by the work of art students. Attachments opens on July 2 with a reception from 3 to 8 p.m. and runs through September 2.

The Lakewood Cultural Center (470 South Allison Parkway, Lakewood, 303-987-7876) is hosting a three-part show called The Essence of Fiber. The first section is titled Meditative Visions and features work by Barbara Shapiro and Karen Simmons; it closes August 13. The second, Front Range Contemporary Quilters, is an annual juried show that stays up through September 3. And third is Women's Indian Blankets, on loan from the Center of Southwestern Studies in Durango; it closes September 17. Also in Lakewood is the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (1600 Pierce Street, 303-753-6046) where the Philip J. Steele Gallery is presenting two shows: The Architecture of Cloth, a duet featuring Bethanne Knudson and Pauline Verbeek-Cowart, and Seamless: An Exhibition of Fiber Artists, including Rachel Cole, Demry Frankenheimer and Patricia Tinajero-Baker. A reception will be held on Friday, July 2, from 6 to 9 p.m.; the shows are on display through July 17.

The Foothills Art Center in Golden (809 15th Street, Golden, 303-279-3922) is hosting Woven Journeys, which was organized by Kathy Spoering and highlights her work along with that of other regional fiber artists, including Karen Benjamin, Mary Dieterich, James Koehler, Sarah Swett, Nancy Taylor, and Irwin and Lisa Trujillo. A meet-the-artists reception will be held on Friday, July 2, from 7 to 9 p.m.; the exhibit closes July 11.

Even the most avid fiber fans would find themselves in tatters trying to attend all these shows, let alone the dozens of others around the area. And the number of First Friday receptions on July 2 will make your head spin. As a result, the HGA has arranged a gallery crawl for conferees beginning at 7 p.m.; the rest of us are left to our own devices. Happy shuttling.

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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