The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Published on May 26, 1995
By Helen Cullinan

You have drunk the tea and put the used-up leaves in the compost container. What do you do with the empty tea bag?

The ultimate in recycling is seen in the 1995 "Focus: Fiber" exhibition of the Textile Arts Alliance at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where Katherine Shaughnessy's "Tea Queen #2" uses stitched paper tea bag squares in an assemblage that correlates tea drinking and quilt-making as nourishing twin rituals. Another Shaughnessy work in the show uses discarded paper coffee filters and funeral card fragments to create a floating shroudlike form that addresses death and lingering spirits.

The show of 32 pieces by 23 artists is filled with poignant touches and personal statements in fiberworks of simple-to-elegant materials. Bold and bright, it offers a balance of wearable items, quilting and applique, weavings, beadwork, embroidery and 3-D works, selected on a highly discretionary level from 133 entries.

Among the most exquisite sculptural works are the wrapped linen and silk cord bundles of Dorothy Ceruti, including "Remnants from the Garden of Joy and Sorrow," reproducing architectural drawings by her late husband Joseph Ceruti. Another work in a similar vein of personal grief, Jane Hammond's "reliquary for Seasons Past (Passed)," incorporates wheat grass, silk, batik, gilding and photo scraps in a hugely complex tiny construction memorializing her mother.

Moving to a topical plane, Mary Michaels' "From Kansas to Kobe with Love" recalls the destruction of the Japanese earthquake in the show's one large quilt, with Asian accents in fabric. The applique pattern of Katherine Coss' elegant "Northridge Rumble" kimono-style jacket pictures broken bridges and billowing flames of the January 1994 earthquake in California.

Christine French adds a potent feminist voice in two large paper pulp shrine reliefs honoring Gaia, Mother Earth. French's seed-pod studded "The Goddess" shrine and "Heart Earth Shrine for Pine" have an organic, nature-made look. She conceives them as prayers.

Bernice Massey, known for her vine-woven animal sculptures, shows a dynamic new direction with her "Chicken Running" and "Great Blue Heron" wall pieces with colorful feathers carved of dyed driftwood. Her show statement designates these as "the place where wood and fiber meet."

On the pictoral side, June A. O'Neil shows two dazzling small impressionionist landscape hangings, "Summer Garden," and "Autumn on a Riverbank" in a composite machine piecing and quilting technique with cotton fabrics, batting and yards of colorful thread. Dorothy Fusselman's "Still Life with Picasso Still Life" is a gem of piecing, applique and quilting. Kathleen M. Roig's "Flying Fish Rewoven" projects a marine movement theme in a minutely constructed broken twill damask weaving.

Two of the show's star quilters are Anne Warren, with her richly embellished collage-like "Crib Quilt with Flying Tropical Brains," and Ruta Marino, with her meticulously many-layered cotton "Tic Tac Toe" grid quilt.

"Focus: Fiber," which glows in a multicolor-wall backdrop installation by Joseph L. Finezia, commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Textile Arts Alliance. Jurors were Naomi Whiting Towner, director of the fiber program at Illinois State University at Bloomington, and Marlene Mancini Frost, Kent State University professor emeritus of art.


Copyright Ⓒ 1998-2018 Katherine Shaughnessy