The use of thread in creative endeavors can be traced back to the use of flax by early humans. Its inherent presence in sewing, weaving, and quilting may go unnoticed as machine-made processes replace manual techniques. Often employed in idiomatic expressions, the word “thread” has come into common usage to evoke the presence of meaningful connections between things. We would be well served to remember the emotional qualities textiles take on and how they are essential to the human experience. They provide the warmth and covering necessary for survival, and adorn domestic spaces to serve utilitarian as well as decorative purposes. In this exhibition, we explore the use of thread by either its absence or presence in weaving, printmaking, needlepoint, quilting, and industrial design.
Quilt-making traditions are revered across cultures and exalted for their expressions of personal stories, intimacy, and skill. Kathryn Clark’s quilts merge her passion for urban planning and skill as a fiber artist. Through her stitches, selection of color, and decision to display the quilts inside out, she reveals the devastating effects housing foreclosures can have on a community. In a similarly socially conscious mindset, Lousiana Bendolph of the Gee’s Bend quilters creates vibrant and beautiful quilts that are abstractions of topographical views of houses. Her quilt patterns are then translated into stunningly tactile and luminous etchings on paper that convey the woven fibers present in the cloth scraps used to construct quilts. Frederick Nunley approaches quilting with a human-centric mindset. Each quilt has a unique narrative at its foundation. In “Wave Shirt Quilt” he uses men’s shirtsleeves to form a pattern that is deeply personal and yet universal.
Jane Anthony’s weavings merge her love of mathematics and art. In one weaving, Fibonacci’s number sequence informs the pattern achieved in the work. These patterns occur throughout nature, another source of Anthony’s inspiration. Patrick McDonough uses thread for beauty and contemplation of the self. His needlepoints pay homage to paintings created by other artists. They are contemporary in composition, yet rooted in the tradition of the handmade. McDonough takes the use of thread a step further with his easily recognizable, yet unusable lawn chair. The colorful fibers meant for sitting are only part of the allusion to American leisure time.