“Stitches: An Invitational Exhibit of Fiber Art” at the Arkansas Arts Center is a show that illustrates how much the aesthetic mind craves a line. These lines are 3-D, they build up a surface, go in and out of their picture plane, have texture and sheen.
Artists who embroider and stitch their art are fortunate that a) they have the skill to use this particular strategy to make what amounts to dimensional drawing and b) that silk thread comes in every color imaginable.
Canadian Anna Torma’s work is much like thread doodling, done with a skilled and artful needle. Her palette and surface are rich as a result. Her hand-stitched leaves and swirling hyphens of lines and child-like creatures and flames and appliqués create impressions of a garden from above, a playground, a map. Step back from “Suburb I” to see its figures take shape from silk thread, pieces of fabric and a terrific sense of composition and color.
Arkansas native Laurie Hickman Cox has on view several pieces that draw from the quilt form. Her palette is pale and airy; she pieces patches together with wide, loose (but precise) stitches on printed cotton, mesh, satin, and vellum paper punched with holes. To add a touch of content, she’s sewn a baby Jesus and lambs and boy symbols to one piece, a toy Indian to another.
Fiber art may be part of a women’s art movement, but Arts Center curator Anne Gochenour, a student of the media, invited two men: Darrel Morris of Illinois and Tom Lundberg of Colorado.
Content is the big hitter in Morris’ large unframed canvases on which are line-stitched drawings of male mourners (and a few women) behind an empty coffin (“Who’ll be Sorry When She’s Gone?”) and a vast plaza of men raising their arms to heaven (“Contest”) while a key dangles over the head of one of two infants whose arms lay by the baby’s side. The latter work could be about grace, or not.
Lundberg exploits the ability of stitches to make a thick patch of color. He does with thread with what Van Gogh and Seurat did with paint, thickly embroidering the entire surface of his linen to create motion, texture and depth. The complexity of the stitches — thanks to changes in direction and color — creates an illusion of blended color when the medium — silk thread — can’t bleed at all.
The two other women in the show, Californian Tucker Schwarz and Texan Jenny Hart, are on either end of a sewing spectrum, Schwarz’s machine-stitched and thread-draped canvases factual and spare, Hart’s hand-stitched images of the mythical La Llorano and Iggy Pop narrative, ironic and personal.
The show runs through Feb. 25.
Washington, D.C., artist Joyce Wellman is showing colorful and energetic semi-abstract work in the show “Set Theory: Prints, Paintings and Drawings by Joyce Wellman,” in Gallery I of the Fine Arts Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. A glance at her website (joycewellman.com) shows work that is sometimes Fauvist in color, Cubist in form, featuring brush strokes of controlled passion.
Wellman has exhibited nationally and abroad is included in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Darrell Walker. She will be at UALR to give a talk at 6 p.m. Feb. 13 in the Fine Arts Center and for a reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 15.
In Gallery II, UALR photography professor Gary Cawood is showing “Excavation: Photographs of the abandoned rock quarry in North Little Rock.”
Coming up: The Arts Center opens the traveling exhibit “Lines of Discovery: 225 Years of American Drawings from the Columbus Museum” on Friday, Jan. 26. The Georgia museum has provided 143 works, including drawings by Milton Avery, Mary Cassatt, John Singleton Copley, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Childe Hassam, John Marin, Reginald Marsh, Robert Motherwell, John Singer Sargent, John Sloan, Frank Stella and Andrew Newell Wyeth. The show will run though April 1.