Art review: ‘Converging Visions: New Works in Fiber’ at Summit Artspace

By Dorothy Shinn
Beacon Journal art and architecture critic

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Converging VISIONS: NEW Works in Fiber at Summit Artspace Gallery NOT QUITE CONTAINED Karen Hinkle, 2013 felt, pigment.
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Sometimes the nature of an art group is as important as the reason it came together in the first place.

Contemporary Fiber Artists formed in 1994 to support and critique each other’s work, to explore new techniques and to learn. Along the way, they also forged lasting friendships. The personalities and visions of the eight members complement each other, with fiber as the unifying factor.

Fiber and accoutrements, that is. Just as fiber once was the basis of their collective, now it’s often only a base for their work. They’ve branched out into beading, sculpture, jewelry, collage and installation art.

Through July 27, their work is on view in Converging Visions: New Works in Fiber at Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St., Akron.

The number of skills these women have taught themselves is truly inspiring. And every time one of them learns a new technique, she shares it with the others.

They’ve learned tie-dye and papermaking, beading methods and felting, artist’s books and box construction. Basically, if you can attach it to cloth, they’ve learned how to do it.

As I was getting to know them during our interview session Wednesday, one of the members mentioned that she needed to learn how to make a cabochon jewel out of glass. A member of the group explained how to do it. Then a quick discussion on the availability of flamework classes followed.

These are gals who never saw a process they didn’t want to understand and master. They are a hands-on bunch who laugh at their disasters and quietly welcome accomplishment, knowing that one success is only another step in the right direction.

Four of them live in Akron, one each in Bath, Kent, Medina and Garrettsville. They are Polly Gilmore, Karen Hinkle, Mary Platis Kapenekas, Kris Kapenekas, Jean M. Evans, Jean Markowitz, Fredericka Hagerty and Kathryn Markel Levy.

This exhibit has been an inspiration to the group, and several have had breakthroughs in their work while preparing for it.

Evans is a nationally award-winning quilter who uses her drawing and painting skills to create large wall hangings that speak to everyday life, as well as fantasy and design. A retired teacher from Medina Public Schools, her strengths include making a flat surface appear multidimensional.

She has six quilts in this exhibit: Up a Tree at Three, Uptown, Autumn, Reap What You Sow, Tomato Takeover and So Sew. Only one, the small puzzle piece So Sew, is for sale.

Possessed of a bubbly personality, Gilmore is a self-described “creature of impulse with magpie instincts.” She has 28 pieces in the show including seven pins, four boxes, an artist’s book and several collages.

“It’s amazing the things that will catch my eye,” she said. “I’m drawn to the colors or the shapes or perhaps where it came from. I think about it and it achieves what I call critical mass in my imagination, then I begin the piece,” and she says it’s curious “how often it doesn’t even include the thing that actually started the whole process.

“I do a lot of hand work,” she confided. “It’s cheaper than cigarettes and less fattening than food, and it’s satisfying for me. My mind can wander and resolve whatever’s going on in my life while I work.”

Her work is evocative, playful and never dull, much like her personality.

Mary Kapenekas has a penchant for metal shims, the kind that plumbers use to level porcelain objects. Her colleagues often tease her that her work is dangerous to touch because of all the metal points and edges sticking up.

She has 11 works in the show, nine of them made with the shims.

“I work with steel and brass shim that comes in different weights and in sheets,” she explained. “I usually embroider it to my fiber work. The metal is used primarily to embellish the piece.”

Two of her pieces, however, contain no metal. They were designed by her and printed by TechStyleLAB, the Fashion School at Kent State University.

A designer by profession, Mary Kapenekas is primarily interested in the manipulation of space as well as the objects within space. “When I design a piece, I’m more interested in the elements of design, so it’s more about the composition than the related articles,” she explained.

Her new work with the KSU lab, has, more than anything she has done with the shims, tapped that impulse, and, using geometry as a controlling factor, has produced exceedingly interesting work. It’s a major breakthrough, and a process she’s eager to continue.

Kris Kapenekas has also had a major breakthrough in her work, but not by using the KSU lab. Mary’s daughter, she usually works with social and political issues, often endangered animals. But because she also works full time, the time she can spend with her art has been limited.

Recently, however, she’s discovered that if she works with only abstract or geometric shapes, using black as her motivating color, she’s been able to pull off some astounding work, resulting in Homage to Robert Indiana, a black wall hanging with a bleached-out numbers amassed in its center; and Target Practice i.e. Don’t Mess with Jack, another black wall hanging with bleached-out circles in a grid pattern that have been shot at by her friend Jack, a marksman.

Markowitz has also included works that could be considered breakthrough pieces. If Mondrian Were a Quilter and Windows on the World — Empty have used the grid as a powerful compositional device to the create outstanding pieces.

These women have pushed each other and themselves to keep their hands busy and make work that brings delight to us all. We should all be lucky enough to be able to do that.

The following events have been scheduled for the exhibit:

• Kris Kapenekas will hold an Arashi Shibori technique demonstration from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

• On July 13, Kris Kapenekas will lead a free parent-child workshop on Paste Papers from 1 to 3 p.m. This is recommended for children 4 or older with their parents or older siblings. Register in advance by emailing rhinton@akronareaarts.org or calling 330-376-8480.

• Jean Evans will demonstrate painting with acrylics on fabrics from 6:30 to 8 p.m. July 18.

Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or dtgshinn@att.net.


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