Gather together a vibrant group of textile artists, pose a problem that sparks their creativity, and you get “Masks: Disguise – Expose – Celebrate.” The bold and thought-provoking exhibition will be on display as part of the Fine Art of Fiber show opening at the Chicago Botanic Garden this Thursday evening.
“Masks” is the 11th project by “Women’s Journeys in Fiber,” an ongoing exploration of the artistic process that began 16 years ago with an eclectic mix of quilters, lace makers, bead workers, weavers, and others. This year’s challenge: use a textile technique to construct a mask that’s celebratory, ceremonial, entertaining, theatrical, decorative, ethnic, or personal.
The resulting “fireworks display” of creativity foments growth and transformation for the artists, and provides visitors an inspiring and engaging experience, said Jan Gerber of Wilmette, Illinois, the group’s founder. Let’s take a sneak preview:
Dia de Los Muertos/Day of the Dead
by Valerie Rodelli of Inverness, IL
It’s said that the spirits of the deceased can return to earth and visit their families on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Images of skeletons, depicting the beloved activities of the departed, are used to welcome back the dead. Perhaps the soul commemorated in Valerie Rodelli’s mask was a gardener, farmer, botanist, or nature lover.
Ma Bell Transformed
by Mary Krebs Smith of Wilmette, IL
What have we gained and what have we lost in the Internet Age? Ma Bell Transformed reflects Mary Krebs Smith’s family traditions, as well as her frustrations with new modes of communication. Adornments to her mask include trinkets her mother and aunt received during their 45 years of service with Illinois Bell (AT&T).
Going Gray without Becoming Invisible
by Dvorah Kaufman of Kenosha, WI
Do women really become invisible when they go gray? Dvorah Kaufman explored and ultimately rejected this notion in a playful mask, made with gray fiber donated by friends and family. “Women who have joy, energy, friends, and family in their lives will never become invisible,” Kaufman said.
Bye Bye Butterflies
by Virginia Reisner of Elmhurst, IL
Virginia Reisner grew up on the northwest wide of Chicago near open spaces, where she played amid butterflies of all sizes and colors. “Things changed when a super highway was built through the area,” Reisner said. “Gone were the woods, the prairie and most importantly, the butterflies.” Her beaded mask pays tribute to “past, present, and, hopefully, future” winged beauties.
by Hyangsook Cho of Barrington, IL
Air, water, and earth are essential elements of nature that embrace all life. Hyangsook Cho’s mossy mask—sprouting wires wrapped with yarn—symbolizes the environment supporting all.
Whiskers—The Real Thing
by Marcia Lee Hartnell of Northbrook, IL
An exploration of macramé, incorporating real whiskers shed by pet cats, led to the creation of Marcia Lee Hartnell’s cat mask.
by Maria Snyder of Lake Forest, IL
Mental illness—a thread running through Maria Snyder’s family history—should be treated and discussed like any physical illness, she said. Snyder’s mask is a call to lift the stigma of mental illness and bring the topic into the open.
When Life Gives You Junk Mail, Create!
by Gretchen M. Alexander of Glenview, IL
A mailbox stuffed with colorful, abundant junk mail led Gretchen Alexander to ponder the debris generated and discarded by society. She created a mask from the overflow to serves as a metaphor for innovative ways to reuse and recycle materials.
Face of Time
by Elizabeth Mini of Browns Lake, WI
The Honduras mahogany used to carve this mask reminded Elizabeth Mini of her childhood home, where she grew up amid descendants of the Maya Indians. “Carving wood is normally a man’s work,” Elizabeth wrote. “Breaking this mold has been my woman’s journey in time.”
Shaman Spirit Mask
by Cathy Mendola of Lake Forest, IL
Western and Native American astrology, Hindu traditions, and a crown of seashells help express Cathy Mendola’s deep connection to nature in this interpretation of a Shaman spirit mask.
All photos are by Patrick Fraser of Chi-Town Foto
©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org