Four distinct exhibitions are artfully combined in one large gallery at Florida Craftsmen, a celebration of weaving and textile art in its many manifestations.
Because that's the way you'll experience it, I'm treating it as a single show that contains wearable fiber art and jewelry, wall hangings and baskets. And dolls!
Based on tribal costumes and customs, the dolls steal the show, crouching on stands as if ready to jump off and break into a dance around the static objects that surround them. Self-taught artist Christopher Malone molds heads and hands from polymer clay and gives them expressive gestures that suggest interrupted conversation. He dresses them in ornate headgear and clothing, with big slippered feet. Thoroughly engaging.
Tapestries line the walls. Some hearken back to traditional figuration, such as Lynn Mayne's sophisticated compositions of dragonflies poised over water lilies and Becky Stevens' portraits of couples from different ethnic groups woven into lush garden backdrops, with cryptic titles such as Can We Talk About It? that acknowledge the universality of romantic relationships and their issues. Stevens and her fellow artists also veer into abstraction, she with another series detailing the colorful patterns of butterfly wings (I preferred the ones without the overkill beading) and Terri Stewart with Critters that resemble microscopic creatures in various stages of growth. John Nicholson weaves an arterial web of tone and textures that is a fantastical interpretation of its biological inspiration.
Baskets, too, sit at far ends of their interpretive range. Marilyn Moore and Jackie Abrams work in hypotheticals. Moore's Silver Tendril Teapot is a thing of twined wire beauty that looks more animal than mineral, and is, of course, completely nonfunctional, as are her provocative vessels in ombre, subtle gradations of color that go from light to dark by interweaving black twine in increasing intensity. Polly Adams Sutton's baskets of natural barks and grasses at first are like little brown hens standing next to fibrous peacocks in full regalia until you study the sophisticated warp and weft variations she uses to achieve the patterns that follow the baskets' curves and slouches.
The majority of objects, displayed in glass cases, are wearable. Lots of scarves, maybe too many to appreciate as individuals. Jewelry is mostly unmemorable except for Giovanna Imperia's sea grape brooches, made of iridescent organdy poufs growing on sterling branches, and Liz Halsted's bracelets, styled like delicate chain link and woven with pearls or aquamarines. Sharon Goeres fashions a jaunty cloche hat from felt, fitted out for warm weather with a welter of seashells, ribbon and beads. Anne Flora's Aycayia is also a hat, with the subtitle She Who Sings Sweetly: A Caribbean Mermaid's Ceremonial Headdress, which is almost as cumbersome as all the stuff loaded onto the cap. In fairness, the name is descriptive: Aycayia is the mermaid of Caribbean myths and translated means "she with the lovely voice." But all the tulle, velvet, glitter, beads and pearls might be over the top even for evil Ursula from the Little Mermaid. Then again, Ursula really wasn't a mermaid.
The gallery's window display contains tools, including looms, and materials used in weaving. Good idea, though I wished for information about the processes that would have made their inclusion educational as well as visually interesting.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8293.