Tansey Contemporary's Recall – Recapture – Remember coincides with the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center's second annual New Mexico Fiber Art Crawl, a weekend-long series of events (needle felting, wet felting or upwolfing, anyone?!) at sites across New Mexico. At Tansey, 22 textile and fiber artists run the gamut from figurative to abstract, with much of the work landing somewhere in between. Speaking to SFR from Denver, where she runs another art space by the same name, gallery owner Jen Tansey says, "Last year's crawl went so well that we decided to plan a formal exhibition for this one. But we're just hosting. [The Fiber Art Crawl] put out the call for artists, came up with the theme and everything else." The theme, if it isn't obvious from the show's title, is essentially memory—pretty broad, sure, but it provides cohesion for a sprawling genre which defies easy categorization. As Tansey points out, "Painting and sculpture are kind of their own thing. I think fiber art tends to be more accessible to people."
Also, um, I'm just going to say it: Butterfingers art collectors, rejoice! Lots of fiber art—especially, of course, woven textiles—can be displayed without risk of cracking or breaking.
Years ago, I interned at a blue chip art gallery whose owner would get agitated when artists submitted works that were predominantly green in color—the idea being that they don't appeal to the average buyer. There may be some truth to that, but I'm convinced the boldly emerald "Wind in the Meadow Grass" is a piece anyone would love. It's a masterpiece of hand-dyed, pleated green silk, arranged in layer upon verdant layer, meticulously arranged to mimic blades of grass. "All of my work is essentially about celebrating everyday life," its creator Melody Money tells SFR. "Everybody has seen grass blowing in the wind, so it fits into the theme of the show—as something we all hold in a collective memory."
Fiber artists don't just work in cloth, of course. Jacqueline Mallegni has been making Japanese paper (or washi) for nearly 30 years. The delicate, pale-beige "Journey Home" is a three-dimensional little sailing vessel, whose three spheres—two in paper and one of bundled twine—are nestled snugly into the ship's hull. "The open vessel form resonates with me for various reasons, mostly as it relates to the human journey through life," Mallegni says. "We're always moving, but we have these ideas of what home is. To me, I guess, home is the moment-by-moment exchange within our environments."
Textiles have obviously been designed and crafted throughout history. In many, many cases, craftspeople and artisans applied aesthetically pleasing details to strictly utilitarian (i.e., no-need-to-gussy-up) items. It's no surprise that New Mexico, home to some of the most ancient civilizations on the continent, has a rich history of fiber arts. Unfortunately, techniques are not always preserved—but that's where the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center comes in. According to its website, the organization was founded in 1995 to serve the "many families in the area who had inherited looms but who had little knowledge of the techniques and heritage of Northern New Mexico textiles practiced by their grandparents." The group wants to educate the community not only through events like the crawl, but also with workshops at its downtown Española headquarters. In the Walk in and Weave class, for example, visitors can drop in and create a loom-woven rag rug in just a few hours, no prior weaving experience necessary.
Artist Perla Kopeloff left Argentina in the mid-1970s, settling permanently in the US in 1980. Thematically, the Tansey show struck an especially tender chord for her. "When I heard the show's title, Recall – Recapture – Remember, I was immediately interested because as an immigrant, I'm always doing those things," she explains thoughtfully. The top of her paper and encaustic piece "Family Letters" contains text in both English and Spanish, layered over each other in such a way that makes reading the message—in either language—impossible. "Writing has been a good practice for me," says Kopeloff. "I'm very conscious of the past, but also the present. Coming here, becoming an artist and working with my hands—through that, I was able to transform myself."