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Fiber takes new form in Wexner Center exhibition


Left: Shelia Hicks’ ‘Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column,’ 2013-14.
Right: Faith Wilding’s ‘Crocheted Environment,’ 1972/1995
Credit: Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co. and Charles Mayer

Fiber is for making clothes ­— not the fine arts.

At least that’s a perceived attitude the Wexner Center for the Arts intends to rebuke in a new exhibition.

“There has long been a bias against compositions involving fiber,” reads the curator’s statement. “Such works were historically gendered feminine, carrying connotations of intimacy and domesticity.”

The exhibition opening Saturday, titled “Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present,” showcases a variety of fiber sculptures of modern art and is a “splendid, viscerally engaging and in many ways ground-breaking exhibition” that “adds to our sense of the deep potential of fiber as sculpture,” The Boston Globe wrote.

Featuring 33 artists, this is the first exhibit in more than 40 years to look at fiber art with such depth, said Wex spokesman Erik Pepple, adding that the show looks “at a form that hasn’t gotten its due in the last few decades.”

Jenelle Porter, senior curator at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and curator of this exhibit, said, “It’s the kind of show people come in and immediately love.”

One of the featured artists in this exhibit, Françoise Grossen, said she is “really happy that (these pieces) are shown again because (younger generations) haven’t seen them.” She said her work which will appear in the exhibit “had been in a crate for 30 years” before Porter contacted her about the exhibit. Grossen, whose work includes massive rope sculptures, explains that she made her pieces “one knot after another, or one braid after another.”


Top: Elsi Giauque’s “Élément spatial (Spatial Element),” 1979.
Bottom: Inchword I by Francoise Grossen “Inchworm I,” 1971.
Credit: OSU and courtesy of Francoise Grossen.

“The way I work, I didn’t know exactly where I was going. It was an adventure every day,” she said.

Ruth Laskey, another featured artist, has been working with fabric for almost 15 years. Laskey works in series, which she said means that her pieces “kinda all fall in line with each other.” She said it is terrifying and exciting to view her finished pieces for the first time because she weaves them upside down on the loom so she does several months of work without getting to see it.

She said the exhibit is “beautiful, one of the more interesting shows I’ve seen in a long time.”

“The artwork is very important and overlooked,” Porter said, adding that working on the exhibition has been satisfying. She says the pieces are “quite beautiful and remarkable” and she encourages “people to consider fabric not as a craft material … but an art material like any other.” Her advice for first-time viewers of the exhibit is to look at it with open eyes.

“People are going to be really surprised by how colorful and vivid and impressive these pieces are,” Pepple said,

The exhibition runs through April 12 and admission is free for students and Wex members. Tickets are $8 for the general public and $6 for seniors and Ohio State faculty and staff.

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