The art of weaving brings images of warmth, domesticity and tranquility to minds of many, evoking memories and pictures of people sitting next to an old, wooden loom. However, artist Marianne Fairbanks brings weaving to an entirely new level in her show "Impractical Weaving Suggestions" in the Nancy Nicholas Hall Design Gallery. Deconstructing traditional preconceptions of weaving, Fairbanks is turning the domestic practicality of weaving into a brash artistic statement.
Fairbanks’ show was initially inspired by an old weaving periodical, "Practical Weaving Suggestions," a magazine which gave basic instructions for weaving various household items in the 1940s-1960s. Interested in the dichotomy of the artistic beauty of weaving and the utilitarian practicality of it, Fairbanks attempts to create an “impractical” display of weaving. Focusing on the art of textiles, Fairbanks created her show out of numerous media and materials besides fiber, such as plastic, tape, graph paper and wire. She explained her bright, neon color palettes stating, “I was drawn to sort of using industrial colors and the neon color palettes I was finding in places like Home Depot … things that are going to catch your attention, because I think weaving to me can be sort of quiet, and very personal and intimate, and I guess I’m sort of fighting against that.”
The artist also explained her initial attempt at making practical weaving pieces for her home, such as placemats. Fairbanks explained that “[she] just couldn’t do it. It didn’t hold my interest and I couldn’t see the outcome being anything other than being spilled on or disgusting in a few days.” And many of her pieces reflect this view. From unfinished pieces displaying holes and artfully placed loose strings, to placemats made of plastic string, wire and paper, Fairbanks truly makes her "Impractical Weaving Suggestions" a reality, turning a utility-based craft into an art form.
Fairbanks also revealed her enormous inspiration from the architect and designer Buckminster Fuller and his work with various three-dimensional shapes. Her exploration of various shapes can be seen in "PWS Tetrad," "PWS Triad" and "PWS Cuboctahedron," a series of weavings put on canvas. With neon images of the original "Practical Weaving Suggestions" and reflective geometric shapes superimposed on top of them, the pieces create an interesting contrast of the traditional and modern. The large floor installations of "Parallel Positions" and "Triangles and Twills" also illustrate Fairbanks’ fascination with three-dimensional shapes.
Overall, Fairbanks’ works were compelling pieces of art that pushed the boundaries of weaving into the realm of high art. Not only using thread, but clay, paper, tape and even the materials that create lawn chairs, Fairbanks displayed her wide knowledge of the craft and her immense creativity. Personal highlights of the show included "PWS Tetrad," "PWS Triad" and "PWS Cuboctahedron," as well as her table display of "Color and Weave Fragment, Draft #1 in Plain Weave, Rag Rug and 90 Lapkin," which created a dynamic array of useless placemats woven from various materials. Crafted with beautiful technique and compelling to look at, these pieces are where I spent most of my time in the gallery. Her work "Inverse Rotations" was also engaging, displaying a cheeky sense of humor and frivolity with a shoe hanging from a loom as a shoelace was woven onto it.
Despite her numerous gorgeous works of art, there were some pieces I felt were lacking. Her paper wall collage seemed too crafty and plain in comparison to the rest of the exhibition, and her large pink and black woven wall display titled "Pink/LDDL Plain Twill" did not hold my interest; the piece, while bright in color, seemed like an afterthought to the rest of the exhibition.
"Impractical Weaving Suggestions" will be running until Feb. 21 in the Nancy Nicholas Hall Design Gallery. Even for someone without prior knowledge of weaving or weaving techniques, Fairbanks’ show is still a captivating display of colors and patterns that everyone will enjoy.