with fiber art
Jeanne Vicerial’s Enigmatic ‘Armors’ Evoke Timeless Strength in Elegant Sculptures Made of Thread
Evocative of medieval suits of armor or monastic traditions, Jeanne Vicerial’s intricate sculptures exude quiet strength in thousands of draping threads. The French artist layers halyards, a type of cord used to hoist sails or flags, to outline the curves of figures wearing elegant cloaks, hoods, and shield-like accessories with unraveled coils at their feet. In her series Armors—a play on the French words amour and armure, meaning “love” and “armor,” respectively—she assembles enigmatic garments that await use, as if crystallized over time.
Vicerial was inspired by the Gorgons of Greek mythology, the most famous of which is Medusa, whose hair roiled with snakes and turned anyone who looked at them into stone. “The idea was to insert myself into that great mythological story but to suspend its time, making it impossible to define the time or place where they were born,” the artist tells Colossal. She leaves the wearers’ identities open to interpretation, allowing the viewer to imagine the possibilities of their histories or purposes.
Drawing on her background in fashion and textiles, Vicerial was originally interested in studying the male figure and clothing. She began to focus on expressions of the female form when she participated in a year-long residency at Villa Medici in Rome and was struck by the way women have been represented throughout art history. “When I looked at the sculptures in the Villa’s park and saw the Venuses with their wet drapery, the representations of women in lascivious postures with draped cloth that always seems to be accidentally slipping off, I decided to focus again on the female body,” she says. Vicerial turns the ancient trope on its head by emphasizing garments as protective coverings that beget a formidable presence, merely hinting at the figure beneath.
Describing the works as “guardians,” Vicerial provokes subtle associations with medieval European burials of knights and nobles, Japanese samurai armor, or nuns’ habits. She sometimes places varnished flowers like roses into cavities located where a metal chest plate would have protected one’s vital organs in combat. Like portals glimpsing a mysterious interior, they highlight the body’s vulnerability.
Blurring the boundary between fashion and sculpture, the phantom-like works are devoid of facial expressions. Long threads cascade from headdresses, shoulders, and faces illustrating dignity and vulnerability, and the spectral, imposing armors are “protections that express a form of power, but that are in reality extremely fragile because they are made only of threads,” she says, underlining the dubious tension between strength and weakness. “To touch them is in a way to destroy them because they could never be presented in the same way again.”
Armors comprised a recent exhibition with TEMPLON. If you’re in Paris, you can find Vicerial’s work in the group exhibition Des cheveux et des poils at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs through September 17. Follow updates about forthcoming shows and new works on the artist’s Instagram. (via .able)
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Artist Vanessa Filley Stitches Meditative Cosmic Maps Brimming with Geometry and Symmetries
Vanessa Filley describes a recent body of work as “imagined cosmic map(s),” charts that connect the traditions of fiber arts with the present and the artist’s own questions of finding one’s place in the world. Titled In the Delicate Meshes, the series is comprised of sewn pieces that Filley likens to quilts, with stitches layered into symmetric patchworks of color and texture. “I am interested in the energetic threads that orient and connect us, ground us in place and time, yet tether us to our ancestral past and future—the lines that bring us home,” she says.
Filley references artists like Lenore Tawney, Hilma af Klint, and the women of Gees Bend Quilters, whose practices connect to spirituality, nature, and ancestral histories. Taut threads and twists embody tension and connection between both ends of a stitch, the intricate structures of the works as a whole, and the long tradition of fiber arts. “Each piece in this series is a quilted conversation, a way of taking the disparate questions and feeling of a given moment and mingling them with inspiration from the outside world and the work of those who came before,” the artist says.
In the Delicate Meshes was recently on view at Vivid Art Gallery in Winnetka, and you can find more of the series along with an archive of Filley’s works on her site and Instagram.
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Miniature Figures Carved in Wood Cradle Colorful Silk Lace in Ágnes Herczeg’s Tender Sculptures
Delicate silk threads laced around tiny wooden armatures compose intricate scenes in Ágnes Herczeg’s sculptures. Using branches from fruit trees like wild cherry or pear or foraged driftwood from the banks of the Danube River near where she lives, the Hungary-based artist (previously) meticulously carves the gentle curves of figures, animals, and domestic objects to tell stories about home, traditions, and daily life.
Throughout the past year, Herczeg has focused on woodcarving, enjoying the process as she learns along the way. “I really tried to make as thin and intricate pieces as I can by hand… I really love this process,” she says, sharing that the details provide “even more opportunities to show new stories and compositions.”
Find more on Herczeg’s website, where she also regularly updates her shop with available pieces, and you can follow her work on Instagram.
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Shishi San’s Vibrant Tufted Sculptures Celebrate the Colorful Motifs of Chinese Vases
The soft pile of tufted yarn meets vibrant color in Brussels-based artist Shishi San’s bold sculptures. She began tufting in 2019, working on two-dimensional pieces that feature playful flowers, insects, and other creatures, and last year, she propelled her practice into the three-dimensional realm. Inspired by the shape, hues, and patterns of Chinese vases, she began a series of nine voluminous vessels that draw on traditional motifs in a series titled Fluffy Collection. “I wanted to create my own version of them, inspired both by my own experiences and by their visual identity,” she tells Colossal.
San is currently working on her biggest project to date, so you can keep an eye out for updates on Instagram, and find more on That’s What X Said.
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Kaci Smith Weaves Colorful Patterns into Miniature Looms Fashioned from Wishbones and Branches
In autumn of 2020, artist Kaci Smith was faced with a compound dilemma: daily life was still affected by the pandemic while devastating wildfires spread around her home in Northern California. “The air was so filled with smoke that even my studio became off limits,” she says. “The first branch weaving was just a way to pass some time and do something creative while being stuck indoors.” Smith had previously turned to the craft as a calming and meditative complement to her collage and painting practice, so when she began to forage for twigs that she could transform into delicate looms, she was excited about the possibilities and a new challenge.
Weaving colorful weft threads through plain warp threads, Smith’s interventions suspend web-like miniature tapestries in natural frames. Depending on the size of the branch or the complexity of the pattern, a piece can take several days to complete. A few months ago, she was inspired to utilize a leftover wishbone as “a way to honor the turkey that fed my family on Thanksgiving,” she says, and sources additional pieces online as byproducts of the poultry industry. “Even though tapestry is basically ‘painting with yarn,’ you can never rush it. The very nature of it teaches patience, and there is a special rhythm in the repetition.”
Find more of Smith’s work on her website and Instagram.
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Explore the Ancient Art of Kumihimo, a Traditional Japanese Braiding Technique
The ancient Japanese art of kumihimo encompasses 1,300 years of braiding and cord-making history. Translating to “gathered threads,” the weaving technique has been practiced for centuries, with the completed creations used for binding historical samurai armor and creating ties for modern kimonos. Many kumihimo are made of hand-dyed silk interlaced using special looms as demonstrated in a short film released by Japan House London.
Accompanying the Kumihimo: Japanese Silk Braiding exhibition, the video captures the meditative and methodical process of the labor-intensive art form. One weaver seated at a takadai loom manually passes bobbins through the upper and lower threads and then uses a bamboo tool, or hera, to hit and tighten the braid. Later, a craftsperson is shown at the round murudai, which involves passing the strands from front to back in a rhythmic sequence.
Watch the video above for a glimpse into the process, and if you’re in London, see Kumihimo: Japanese Silk Braiding, which features installations, looms, and dozens of examples of the braids, through June 11.
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