Friday, January 28, 2011

The Jane Dunnewold extravaganza -- part 1

Arguably the best place in the world for a fiber art lover this week is Louisville, where Jane Dunnewold is halfway through a weeklong stint of teaching, lecturing and exhibiting.  I'll write more about the others later, but today I want to write about her solo show, "Etudes: A Daily Practice," at the University of Louisville School of Art, through February 13.  It consists of a stunning 48 pieces of art that she made in a six-week marathon of daily work.

I've seen many substantial solo shows, in various mediums and art practices, but never one so unified in theme and appearance.  Jane explained in an informal gallery talk how she came to make this work.  She wanted to choose a subdued palette after making many brilliantly colored works for an earlier show (all of the new works are made of pale gray silk, with a very limited appearance of the occasional color).  She wanted to work in a horizontal format (most of the works are between 9 and 15 inches tall, and between 34 and 64 inches wide). 

She had inherited a lot of silk yardage from a friend who gave up on surface design, and used a different kind each week.  She wanted to explore three specific techniques: devore, paper lamination and sand printing.  And she chose a small number of visual images that all were linked in some way to music.

If you know anything about Jane's work, you know that her thing is the repeated use of visual images in multiple layers of surface design.  The pieces in this show shared several visual themes: old garments, dress pattern pieces, birds, sheet music, Bible pages, counting by cross-hatched groups of five, checkerboards, leaves.  Sometimes she took a single screened image and printed it in four or five different ways in the same piece. 

Frequently the last touch to a piece was a small bit of hand-stitching, sometimes in a color.  Several of the pieces incorporated tiny bits of an old crazy quilt, its hand-stitched seams foreshadowing Jane's own stitches. 

All the photos in this post are detail shots; my camera isn't up to the task of properly depicting these short, wide, almost monochromatic compositions.  Besides, I know that if I did, you would want me to zoom in for the closeups of the images and techniques.

The works are similar in the long view, as you look around the gallery, but it is the close views that reveal the subtle variations on Jane's themes.  As a whole, the pieces give a powerful reminder of time, of growth, of deterioration, and amid it all, the endurance of the spirit.

I am in awe of this body of work and if you're anywhere within shooting distance of Louisville I would strongly urge you to find a way to see this show.  It even rated a good review and glowing story about Jane in the local newspaper, and you know what a rare treat that is.


  1. Your closeups of Jane's work look like shots of graffiti and markings on aging concrete. I don't know what her whole pieces for this exhibit look like, but these shots are delicious to view. I could look at these for hours!

  2. Thanks for those close ups, Jane's work always pulls you in for a closer look. I'd love to be able to see them in person.

  3. I must must must go.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  4. You got great close up shots of the show. I really enjoyed them. My camera (or maybe the photographer) doesn't do a great job with close ups, so most of the pics I'll be posting on my blog of the exhibit are full-on shots. Her work is truly magical. I enjoyed every bit of the experience--lectures, class, and exhibit.

  5. Enjoyed the details. I'm not familiar with two of the techniques you mentioned: devore and sand printing. What are they?

    Linda Laird

  6. Good question, Linda! Devore is a chemical process that burns away cellulose fibers like cotton. In many cases artists start with a blend fabric like a velvet, and use the devore to burn away the pile in a pattern, leaving only the backing. But Jane uses the chemical to burn away the entire fabric, which has been fused to the background, in a pattern. In the last photo above, the cheesecloth has been burned away in a checkerboard pattern.

    In sand printing, she prints glue through a screen, then pours on fine sand which sticks to the glue in the printed pattern.