(Fabulous fiberistas! From left to right: Fern Gillespie, Laura Gadson, Michelle Bishop*, Veronica Kerton-Johnson, Rosa Walker, Gail Edwards, Urmie D. Seenarine, Patricia Williams, Audrey Weaver, Edna Johnson, Anna Alvrez, Valerie Deas, Joann Boris-Salley, Ife Felix, Shimoda. Not shown: Me, Dindga McCannon, Jackquelyn Jones, Ketney Jean-Francois, Lisa Daehlin, Sherry Shine, Willena Nanton. Photo by Gerald Peart. All pics enlarge).
Until now, I disliked fake flowers as mockery––think cheesy silk blooms with a drop of clear acrylic on a petal to masquerade as water. Flowers rendered in needlework can look even worse; a parody, rendered with limited skill in a medium totally not suited to the plant or flower being reproduced (I fell victim to the latter last year. My attempt to crochet apple roses in a timely fashion, turned out so poor I dropped out of the show). But, what if such super-realist ambitions were abandoned? What would be the outcome of the desire to cultivate using mediums and techniques of intimate acquaintance, to create plants and flowers that spoke to feelings? Or were spiritual messengers? Or just plain happy and fun to look at?
A Damn Cute, Bloomin' Show, That's What
This year's exhibition brought together 22 artists, producing flower and plant sculpture in a luscious bouquet of styles, spanning the spectrum of fiber art––just about every which way you could work your hands was worked.
(Flower as memorial; They Used To Hang Out Here, by Dindga McCannon. Machine and hand embroidery, machine applique and writing, hand printing, digital transfer).
The restrictions by the NYC Parks Department that dictated the mode of display (art must be placed in pots, cannot touch anything, etc., etc.,), didn't tame our creativity; indeed it was the catalyst for an outpouring of work which turned even brighter when the sun blessed us, and ignited conversation among viewers and participants concerning the aesthetic value of "fake" flowers.
Art vs Affectation? The People Have Spoken
My photos don't do justice to the artwork. In fact, the feedback from the viewers I spoke with, have become a kind of benchmark for my own artistic exploration in dealing with nature's flora––they aren't meant to be copied.
"I don't want a reminder of what I can't grow; it should be just art."
"These look better than what I have in my garden and require less care, too."
"I hate silk flowers. These are more like art. I could have one in my living room."
"I love silk flowers, but these are different."
Whether rendered, re-imagined or totally recherché, the comments by viewers on both sides of the grass was that hey, if it's done well enough to elicit recognition and an emotive reaction––other than the neutral pleasantness of silk mimics? It's winning.
Here are more examples:
(Ampelopsis Agripeta Amor "Veni, Vidi, Vici**"; Hand-spun wool vines incorporating hand cut, stamped and painted felt leaves, needlefelted berries, and florist wire; constructed trellis from found branches, cotton string. by Sahara Briscoe––me).
(The rendering of these knitted sunflowers, right down to the seed stitch dirt was genius! Touch of Gold, by Rosa Walker, adapted from 100 Flowers To Knit & Crochet, by Leslye Stanfield. Veined leaf pattern by C.Comb).
What Are Those Numbers?
The numbers aided the judges in their selection of flora to be shown at the inauguration of the community gallery at the City College of New York in the fall. Here's a big shout out to the judges!
And a huge thanks and shout out to my sisters Michelle Bishop and Laura Gadson for making it happen and giving me the opportunity to plant the seeds of my own artistic growth!
*Michelle Bishop, Producer
**The latin identifier is made up.