By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
NORTH TONAWANDA — Art isn’t just paint on a canvas.
Sometimes it’s a woven blanket with all the colors of the evening. Precise, minute embroidery at the top of a stick pin. A spill of loose fiber waves like something washed up on a distant beach. Or a warm scarf that’s proof against the winter cold.
A fiber exhibition running through Dec. 27 at the Carnegie Art Center, 240 Goundry St., North Tonawanda, features all these things and more. The exhibit includes 38 works from 27 artists, some from as far away as Central New York and Pennsylvania, said Jennifer Kursten, Carnegie program coordinator.
“What we found is that there weren’t a lot of venues for them — so we received a lot of interest,” she said. “We put this together in a month’s time. That’s pretty good for that timeframe, so we’re considering making this biennial.”
The work ranges from felted dyed cheesecloth to mixed-media baskets, and from fiber collages to three-dimensional weavings. “From My Bedroom Window,” a quilted piece by Barbara Zammito of Buffalo, evokes the city’s iconic grain elevators.
There’s also wearable art, such as “Vest of Many Colors” by Suanne Pasquarella, scarfs including “Funky” by Rosemary Olmstead and “Honeydew You See Those Curves?” by Pasquarella ... and aptly titled “Wearable Art” by Lenore Tetkowski.
It’s a visually diverse exhibit as well, ranging from the brilliant colors of pieces like Karen Hodge Russell’s “Flying Frog Comb” (mixed fibers and paint) to the more muted tones of Phyllis Vasbinder’s “November” and “Vacant Lot,” both fabrics dyed with natural dye materials.
Vasbinder, of North Tonawanda, said that she’s worked a lot with wool, growing her own plant material to use as dyes — including such materials as indigo, yellow cosmos, black hollyhock, pokeberry and black walnut. Wanting to try something different, she became interested in the work of the artist India Flint
“She does a lot of very unusual things with plant materials,” Vasbinder said. “Inspired by one of her books, I started experimenting with imprinting natural materials onto fabric. I really got excited with that.”
Vasbinder, like Kursten, noted that it can be challenging to find places for fiber artists to exhibit their work.
“The fiber people are really at a disadvantage with places to exhibit, so I think a lot of us like to support the Carnegie for that reason,” she said. “It’s good to have a chance to show off.”
Another North Tonawanda resident taking part in the exhibit, Annette Meyer-Grunow, has two quilted pieces, “Sunshine Through the Window” (for which she received the honorable mention award) and “After the Rain,” on display.
“Historically, quilters got inspiration for their patterns from places they lived,” she said of her work, “like the classic log cabin patterns called barn raising, straight furrows, sunshine and shadow, or animal names: bear paw, duck and duckings, snail’s trail.
“I basically follow in that position in a modern way with my quilts.”
Meyer-Grunow said that she was pleased to see the variety of work on display in the exhibit, which she hopes expands viewers’ horizons as far as what’s possible in the field.
“I think it’s very inspiring for people to see all the different ways you can use fiber,” she said. “People normally know what quilts are. And when they see something woven, that’s pretty straight-forward.
“I think this is good, to open up people’s minds, that fiber is not just knitting and crocheting.”
The exhibit was judged by Jozef Bajus, associated professor of design and coordinator of the fibers program at Buffalo State College.
First place went to Barbara Murak of Getzville for “Regal;” second place, Lily L. Booth of Buffalo for “Fantastic Extravagance;” and third place to MaryAnn Proia of Honeoye Falls for “So Appealing.”
Exhibit hours are noon to 3 p.m. Wednesdays to Fridays and noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
IF YOU GO • WHAT: Fiber exhibition • WHEN: Through Dec. 27. Hours are noon to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays. • WHERE: Carnegie Art Center, 240 Goundry St., North Tonawanda • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call the Carnegie Center at 694-4400.