Critical Mass.: "Cotton" at Fountain Street Fine Art


FRAMINGHAM-- Late last year I was invited to jury a show at 
Fountain Street Fine Art in Framingham, a city about 30 minutes west of Boston. While much of the art I view and write about is in New York City and at international art fairs, I like being able to look at art in other places. This members' gallery, founded and run by artists Cheryl Clinton and Marie Craig, offered such an opportunity. In this post I'll take you around the gallery in a few installation shots with views of some specific works, followed by my exhibition essay, which considers and shows the work thematically.

Cotton is up through January 27.

Installation view of Cotton. The gallery is on the ground floor of a large former factory building, now largely given over to artists' studios and small businesses. Photo: Marie Craig

Below: Stacey Piwinsky, Object of Labor 2, mixed media with oil and fiber

Cottoning To An Unusual Theme
Anyone who has celebrated a second anniversary knows that cotton in the form of domestic textiles is the sentimental gift of choice. For the second anniversary of Fountain Fine Art, however, the gallery’s founders, Cheryl Clinton and Marie Craig, had a different idea: an exhibition with cotton as a theme, a narrative reference, a material in physical or conceptual form.

The 25 artists whose work was selected for Cotton employ mediums as diverse as acrylic, oil, fiber, photography, steel and wax. Their works—there are 33 in this show— align with five threads I describe in the text that follows (after these images). 

Foreground: Catherine Weber, On the Line, digital print photographs on silk on cotton.
Continuing counterclockwise, three from Karen Rothman's Loop Loom Potholder series (more images in essay); Eugenie Lewalski Berg (shown below); Kathleen Volp (shown below and in essay)

Eugenie Lewalski Berg, Black and White and Shades of Grey, mixed media

Kathleen Volp, Twins

Installation view, continuing counterclockwise. Most works are shown following and in essay. Photo: Marie Craig

Patricia Dusman, Ruffled Feathers, wax and graphite on paper

Clara Bohrer, Wednesday Morning, embossed digital print

Installation view, clockwise: Jeanne Williamson (shown in essay); Stacey Piwinsky; Roy Perkinson, David Hawkins (both shown in essay); Cheryl Clinton; two by Willa Vennema (one shown below, the other in essay). On pedestals: Alicia Forestall-Boehm and Lisa Barthelson  both shown in essay). Photo: Marie Craig

Below: Willa Vennema, Fields and Sky #2, encaustic on panel

View of the gallery with Barthelson and Forestall-Boehm in foreground. Photo: Marie Craig

Textile as Image and Object
When I saw Catherine Weber’s image of five gossamer squares of silk and cotton printed with landscapes and strung like laundry, this exhibition began to take shape in my mind. Weber’s installation, On the Line, strung like prayer flags in the memory of her father, relates formally to Color, Texture and Sunlight, David Hawkins’s photograph of two well-worn towels hanging on a clothesline. They connect conceptually to Roy Perkinson’s arabesque of cord in an oil painting titled Interior Landscape (Rope).

Foreground: Catherine Weber, On the Line

David Hawkins, Color, Texture and Sunlight, digital photograph

Roy Perkinson, Interior Landscape (Rope), oil on canvas

Similarly three photographs have a lovely resonance: Rob Weisman’s Tallit, the detail of a prayer shawl, with Marie Craig’s two intimate views of deconstructed upholstery. Where Weisman captures tradition and order, Craig, in Layers and Re-Upholstered 3, offers a romantic depiction of neglect and entropy. 

Rob Weisman, Tallit,  photograph

Marie Craig, Layers, photograph

In her series of three small paintings of potholders, that classic handmade object from Baby Boomer childhood, Karen Rothman embodies image and object with cheeky directness. Ellen’s Loop Loom Potholder (as well as Karen’s and Julie’s) connect the structure of warp and weft directly to Modernism’s enduring trope, the grid.

 Karen Rothman,  Julie's Loop Loom Potholder and Karen's Loop Loom Potholder, each acrylic on canvas, app 10 x 10 inches each 

The grid is very much in evidence in this grouping of structural works. Stacey Piwinski’s mixed media work, Object of Labor #2 
(shown at the opening of the post), is a rigorous tangle that 
incorporates painting and weaving. Intertwined conceptually and physically, this flat image is also a perceptually dimensional structure. Jeanne Williamson’s The Fence as Lace #5 is the largest work in the show. Well over eight feet long and made of stiffened fabric, it asks us to see the handmade in an entirely different scale. 

Jeanne Williams' The Fence as Lace #5

A second Williamson work wraps around a column, flatness assuming dimension and totemic stature. There’s a symmetry between Williamson’s wrapped column and Joe Carpineto’s seven-foot columnar frame, Piecework, which evokes the New England weaving mills that helped build the economy of New England. Formally, it relates to Eugenie Lewalski Berg’s minimalist sculpture, Black and White and Shades of Grey, which packs a lot of disparity—long and short, hard and soft, dark and light—into a neatly resolved piece.

Jeanne Williamson, Fence as Lace #7. Detail from Marie Craig photo

Joe Carpineto, Piecework, mixed media with metal and woven fabric

The narratives here are both direct and oblique. David Hawkins’s black and white photograph of four young women enjoying a sunny afternoon on the grass, In their Summer Cottons, is the most literal but it shares a thread of tender nostalgia with Kate Gasser’s pencil drawing, My Old Dress. Kathleen Volp’s two mixed-media works, The Twins and the black and white diptych, Two Shirts, have an edgy presence--dark-memory narratives, perhaps--yet there’s a formal connection between the ruffle on the white shirt in the diptych and the gathered folds of Patricia Dusman’s sweetly domestic Ruffled Feathers.

David Hawkins, In their Summer Cottons, photograph

Kate Volp, Two Shirts, mixed media diptych

Patricia Dusman, Ruffled Feathers

The thread continues with Through the Curtains, April 1, 2011, Peggy McClure’s photographic evocation of a particular view on a particular day through the folds of a gauzy cloth. The sense of time and place is echoed in two mixed-media prints by Clara Bohrer, Sunday Afternoon 1 and Wednesday Morning 1. With their embossed surfaces of lace and cloth, they evoke a tactile memory of domestic life through a scrim of time past.

Peggy McClure, Through the Curtains, photograph

Both Linda Dunn and Kay Hartung employ mixed media—collage and image transfer, respectively—to tell their stories. Dunn’s Unfolded Time depicts a life from childhood to old age; poignantly, there are letters and domestic textiles embedded in layers. Hartung tells a heroic story: the picking of cotton. I welcomed her work for the connection it makes to that part of the theme which is not all fluffy and light, and this would also include Carpineto’s Piecework, which hints at the long hours of life in the mills. Jane Coder’s collaged painting, Jerome’s Robe, references textiles as it hints at a narrative. There’s a private story in those layers and markings.

This is a small grouping of three small sculptures: Vessel 26 by Alicia Forestall-Boehm; Tween Nest, Family Debris Series by Lisa Barthelson; and Migration, Within and Without by Amy Hannum. The works share not only modest proportions but fiber as a primary medium. Yet Barthelson’s nest is as intentionally unkempt as Forestall-Boehm’s basket is meticulously shaped, while Hannum’s lidded sculpture falls between the two, embodying organic form in formal order.
Alicia Forestall-Boehm, Vessel, woven cotton and encaustic

Lisa Barthelson, Tween Nest, mixed media, app 12 inches diameter

The four paintings in this last group are sophisticated in their evocation of landscape. In Willa Vennema’s two almost-abstractions in encaustic, Fields and Sky #2 and #5, white dots are dispersed throughout. I am enamored of her loose brushwork. Pamela DeJong’s Cropland, also encaustic, depicts a more “cottony” view but with an effective economy of means. This is true, too, of Cheryl Clinton’s Cotton Sky, a small acrylic painting that captures the essence of her subject.

Willa Vennema, Field and Sky #5

Cheryl Clinton, Cotton Sky, acrylic on canvas

The joy (and peril) of jurying an exhibition is that you have no idea what you will be asked to view. I feel fortunate in having been able to consider and select a number of very good works. Moreover, these are works that hew to the theme while offering welcome surprises.     

Read more:
. More artists images on gallery blog   
. Feature and videos at Metro West Daily News


annell4 said...

I enjoyed your post! Thanks so much.

Tamar said...

I enjoyed seeing the diverse connections to the exhibit theme--and once again you've introduced me to several artists to follow. Thanks!

Stacey Piwinski said...

Thanks again for putting together such a great show at Fountain Street. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.

Ruth Andre said...

Fabulous show. Thanks for the share.

Kathryn Hansen said...

first of all that gallery space is amazing!

and the show is really awesome...such creative and talented artists!! i especially love Clara Bohrer's piece!

Fountain Street Fine Art said...

Joanne we can not thank you enough for the remarkable job you did curating "COTTON" for us! We were thrilled with the end result, and you were an outstanding professional to work with.
Many thanks,
Cherie & Marie

France Gallery said...

Really interesting work!