Game Changers. Nifty name for an exhibition at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts. www.FullerCraft.org The original premise, as I understand it, was to catalogue, with one piece each, the artists working in fibers in the US since the 60s, who helped to shape the contemporary textiles field, those who “changed the game”. For the most part, that is what the show accomplishes. There are, of course, people left out and people who have not exactly changed the game yet.
I am pleased to be included. Not only am I included but I share a corner with John Garrett and John McQueen! Pretty cool. There is work by Ed Rossbach, Jane Sauer, Kay Sekimachi, Olga DeAmaral, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Cynthia Schira, Diane Itter, Lia Cook, Randall Darwall, Gyongy Laky, and Warren Seelig…all names from the pantheon of the contemporary textile field. Not all were represented by the best of their oeuvre, but that is to be expected. This is a celebration of contemporary textile history, after all, not a historic reckoning. The guest curators, Pat Warner and Katherine Glover, did a masterful job with little time and a modest budget.
At the reception on Sunday, I was speaking with Jonathan Fairbanks, the director of the Museum, and said something about how terrific it was that they were having a textiles show. An elegant woman nearby said, in a gently corrective tone, “Don’t you mean a fiber show?” I had to laugh (internally). Forty years ago, having recently graduated with an MFA in Textile Design, as it was called, I was teaching at a small college in Pennsylvania. The Art Department had one person to teach each of the material disciplines…clay, metals, painting, textiles, etc. I was textiles. But it was the early 70s and the word, fiber, was coming into vogue. I met with the college curriculum committee to defend a change of name from textiles to fiber. The basis for the argument was the parallel alignment of the materials of craft. Clay, metals, wood were all materials. Textiles referred to structure, really. OK, they said, from now on we have a Fiber Department.
Forty years later, imagine my surprise when talking to…ahem…younger artists that they had taken the word, textiles, to be the preferred designation. I’m not sure on what basis they made that choice but I have a feeling that it is the generational change thing at work. We want to claim what we are doing as something new and different. We look to words to stake a claim. Craftsman. Craftsperson. Artist. Fiber artist. Textile artist. None of them really expresses the breadth of what has been done and continues to be done in the field but we continually struggle with sounding new and different. Maybe the show should have been called Name Changers.
Photos were taken with an iPhone by my husband. The work is by John Garrett, John McQueen, Lissa Hunter, Carol Eckert and Jane Sauer.