Earlier this week, I spoke of two artists showing as part of the FiberPhiladelphia 2012 international biennial currently showing across various venues in the city. My trek through Olde City took me to the Wexler Gallery where Narrative Thread (a group exhibition) is currently installed.
New York-based artist Donna Rosenthal’s Days of Wine and Roses Quilt (120 x 120 inches, vintage romance novels, text, vintage jewelry, gel medium, acrylic spray, steel hangers and brackets, 2009) is a wall-hung installation of twelve pieces that have been painstakingly constructed, designed, beaded, lacquered and developed into miniature dresses that evoke at first glance, a brief fashion history of the “party dress”. However, Rosenthal is using that notion of the “party dress” as a reflection upon cultural perceptions of femininity and self-ornamentation. In addition, her chosen method of display for these items using brackets and petite hangers, further instigate how one could perceive women who’ve worn dresses with sweetheart necklines/high-skirt ruffles as “objects for display”, whether historically or currently. One cannot ignore the 2-D aspect of Rosenthal’s pieces with text from vintage romance novels running across the bodice and ruffled skirts. Text-as-ornamentation and metaphor is something that artists use profoundly, as witnessed in Lesley Dill’s large-scale fabric or dress installations. In her artist statement, Rosenthal says: “Text is almost always used to create cohesiveness between content and materials. The words can be provocative, humorous, ironic, and often, unsettling.”
Vietnam-born and now Seattle-based artist, Diem Chau, employs domestic mediums such as porcelain plates, cotton fabric and thread to sew narrative stories that leave the viewer wondering just exactly what each piece may mean, how it started, and where she’s taking us. You & I (35) (8.5″ x 12″ x 1″, porcelain plate, organza, cotton fabric, thread, 2011) is an exquisitely elegant piece that offers a snapshot view of two figures that we can tell are female and male, though we see no facial features or expressions. However, is Chau linking the elevation of the male figure standing on a book (or is it a small podium?) as an assessment of his “elevated status”? It’s these mysteries that engage us: of how her work “drifts into new territory by exploring the periphery of the narrative, moments forgotten and faded, or too brief to retain.”
Narrative Thread can be viewed through April 28, 2012 at the Wexler Gallery, located at 201 North 3rd Street in downtown Olde City, Philadelphia, PA, in conjunction with FiberPhiladelphia 2012.
(Images courtesy of Wexler Gallery, Philadelphia.)