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It's Complicated





Our media feeds and calendars can feel overwhelming these days. We are inundated with news – sometimes joyful and sometimes devastating. Acknowledging the abundance and complexities of today’s world, It’s complicated highlights work in which the technique or subject matter is full of details and complications. Essentially, I found myself drawn to works with “a lot going on” whose intricacies revealed a lot more beneath the surface texture. These works cover thorny topics like relationships, identity, sovereignty, and memory. Marked by excess and reiteration, they examine the perpetual friction between past and future, good and evil, love and loss.


As you pore over each work, you’ll discover deeper meaning hidden within the details, and many tell stories about the consequences of human behavior. Initially charmed by their appealing color palettes, I learned about the extinction of passenger pigeons as the result of hunting and deforestation practices in Barbara Schreiber’s small but weighty paintings. Kate Clements’ meticulously crafted glass botanicals tell similar tales of our effects on Nature and our drive to control and devour it. Sally Veach reflects on colonization and the ugly side of the cotton industry through research into 18th century chintz textile designs in landscape-esque paintings. Blake Sanders also considers that privilege comes at a great cost to people and the land, while Marcus Dunn’s paintings focus on the effects of boarding schools and the attempted erasure of Native American culture. These works illustrate our flawed histories and question how they might affect our personal and communal futures.  


The future eats away at the past in Jon Verney’s decomposing polaroid photographs. These images rely on a collaborative relationship between science and art while embodying the volatility of memory. Linking past to present, Brant Weiland and Rachael Zur create ghosts of objects and objects about ghosts. Nicole Ryan’s paintings also reflect the mutability of our memories, caught somewhere between creation and destruction. Patterns morph from grasses to fences to a floating mass of trumpet flowers around a central figure in Hannah Hill’s piece which reads more like an amalgamation of reality, fantasy, and Southern lore.


The female figure appears throughout this catalog, underscoring the complexities of gender, identity, and bodily autonomy. Textile patterns are employed with feminist undertones by artists like Heather Jones. The motifs that surround Shabnam Jannesari’s figures reflect her Iranian heritage and the resilience of women within patriarchal spaces. Crochet patterns are a recurring theme in Linda Behar’s work, a juxtaposition of traditionally female labor paired with female bodies that clap back at the male gaze with their assertive and robust stance. The importance of lifting each other up is also felt in Sherri Wolfgang’s triumphantly rendered portraits of “sheros”. Camilla Fallon combines parallel lines of light streaming through window blinds with the figurative study of a highly contested part of the female body – the belly or womb. Jess Blaustein references life lines on our skin and the physical evidence of age through repetitive stitched marks on fabric. The body is an embellished battleground.


Quite a few of these artists use complicated material combinations or work with materials in ways that challenge their canons. Rachel David forges steel into a pair of intricate and curvaceous exoskeletons for those who sit within them. Jaqueline Stryker blends risograph with textile techniques in her lively quilts that play uniquely with negative space. Also blurring the lines between 2d and 3d, the work of Marjorie Hellman provides a momentary rest within this visual symphony with a geometric simplicity that actually gets more complex the longer you look. Judith Mullen achieves complexity through multiple layers of unexpected material embellishments like yarn, plaster and resin. 


Cianne Fragione’s compositions remind me of an archaeological dig, revealing strata of cultural sediment whose histories can never fully be understood. Mapping the gratuitous array of snack options at any nearby gas station, Sarah Spillers paints evidence of a culture of surplus. Excess can become a burden, and we feel that burden of abundance viscerally in the textile-based performance work of Meirav Ong and the larger than life text-ile work of Joy Ray. 


Several works investigate our complicated relationship to technology at a time when we are both seduced by and terrified of the possibilities of automation and artificial intelligence. Michael Velliquette asserts the value of the hand over the machine in his hand-cut paper compositions, simulating the precision of machine-made gear shapes. Ellen Ramsey’s clever tapestries use AI to generate an image that is meant to combine circuit board and rug patterns, while Ash Garner investigates the “profound connection between our virtual personas and our physical selves”.


Considering relationships between people, the complexity and mundanity of human love and longing are treated with a material tenderness in works by Sasha Baskin and Lexie Loader. Baskin uses the delicate work of bobbin-lace to recreate dramatic moments of romance from reality television. Lexie Loader paints ordinary pockets of interior spaces with a melancholic tone, yet they seem to blush from the inside out. She reminds us of those quiet moments alone that allow our thoughts to wander and our hearts to swell with memories of people and places far away. 


Despite their different perspectives, there is a general sense of precision among these works - a sort of organized chaos. As a whole, they reflect the need to find order within discord and peace despite information overload. They illustrate how we are all persevering through what painter Lily Hollinden refers to as this “timeless, chaotic, and curious world”. The devil is indeed in all the details, layers, and textures here, but they are filled with profound revelations.



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Erika Diamond is a textile-focused artist, curator, and educator based in Asheville, NC. Her work is influenced by dance, costume, materiality, and the politics of queer safety and visibility. She received a BFA in Sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA in Fiber from Virginia Commonwealth University. Diamond has exhibited nationally and abroad, and her costumes have been commissioned by Charlotte Ballet. Exhibition venues include Center for Craft (NC), Contemporary Craft (PA), Dinner Gallery (NYC), Form & Concept Gallery (NM), Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (VA), Dorsky Gallery (NY), and International Museum of Art & Science (TX). Her work is included the collections of San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles and Ally Bank among other private collections. Residencies include: McColl Center for Visual Art; STARworks; ABK Weaving Center; Platte Forum; and UNC Asheville STEAM Studio. She has received grants from US Artists, Haywood County Arts Council, Fiber Art Now, VCU Arts, and Arts & Science Council of NC. Diamond has taught at Virginia Commonwealth University, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Appalachian Center for Craft, Penland School of Crafts, and Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. She has been reviewed in Metalsmith Magazine, Glasstire, and Whitehot Magazine. Diamond is Associate Director of Galleries at Chautauqua Institution (NY).

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It's Complicated




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