Friday, March 25, 2011

A surprise in "Art in America"

When my "Art in America" arrives, I read it from the front to the back, every page.  Sometimes I think the ads are more interesting and educational than the editorial features.  All the big galleries showcase their current exhibits, usually with huge photos of the most striking piece in the show and/or a piece by the most famous artist in the show.  Ads in the March issue feature art by Diane Arbus, Donald Judd, Robert Motherwell, Roy Lichtenstein, Jean Dubuffet, and that's just in the first 27 pages; it goes on and on.

I'm used to seeing familiar names in the ads, but something startled me on page 109 -- yes, a familiar name, but it was familiar to me from -- gasp! -- fiber art!  And not just fiber art, but quilts!  The artist was Regina Benson, and she's going to have a show at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick MD next month.  And the center took a full-page ad, half of which announced Regina's show.

Here's the image from the ad.

Regina Benson, Core Sample

I was particularly pleased by this ad, for two reasons. 

First, that a museum thinks highly enough of a fiber artist to advertise her to the mainstream art world.  Many museums and galleries show fiber art, but I sometimes get the feeling they're a tiny bit ashamed of it, and don't publicize the shows as much as they would for paintings and sculpture.

Second, that Regina's piece was not immediately identifiable as fiber. 

Huh?  Why did that make me happy?

You may know from reading my blog that I'm paranoid about how fiber art often gets treated as a second-class citizen in the mainstream art world.  I think that the more our work resembles traditional, functional textiles such as quilts, the easier it is for people to immediately categorize it, and just as immediately discount it.  So anything we can do to interrupt the knee-jerk response, or even to delay it a while, is probably a good thing.

People might well be reading "Art in America" and not know that Regina Benson makes quilts.  They might be drawn to the striking image and admire it for a while, before they read the title of the show, "Personal Landscapes:  Fiber in concert with nature."  Heck, they might even slide by that description and go see the show without realizing beforehand it's fiber.  If they do, I bet they'll be in for a very pleasant surprise.


  1. I always read your blog and enjoy it....informative (not too long) and fresh

  2. ff -- thanks so much!!

  3. I'm afraid I don't see how a gallery's choice of fiber art that doesn't LOOK like fiber advances the reputation of fiber art. It seems to say the opposite to me.

  4. I just entered two pieces in a show that is always just "mainstream" art. The woman who took my entry said to me..."you know the membership show is at the end of the year and you could enter that?" What do you think of that comment?
    I said "No, I prefer to enter this show."

  5. Kay -- I think what I liked is to see fiber art that's not the stereotypical quilt (binding, borders, etc.) because I suspect that turns mainstream art folks off. But you raise an interesting point. Am I talking in circles? Let me think about that.

  6. In addition to Regina's piece there was another "mainstream" artists whose work included quilt. Yikes!

  7. In terms of Regina Benson's show- which I intend to go to- it was very heavily promoted to people close to the location- I am only 25 miles away and I got several emails, as well as a postcard mailer. And it's a good thing too- I needed all of those reminders to get it on my calendar. Will report in as I will see the show and hear her speak on Saturday.