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Monday, June 1, 2009

Tangled Threads

Art Review

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The idea: Take six Wisconsin-based poets and an equal number of state fiber artists; in a blind exchange, have each fiber artist select a poem and each poet select a piece of fiber art; then each poet writes a new poem in response to the art selected, and each fiber artist creates a new work in response to the poem selected.

The disappointing results are hanging in the Great Hall of the Charles Allis Art Museum. You have until July 26 to view 12 poems, 10 quilted pieces and two weavings. The laborious title, "Threaded Metaphors: Text and Textiles Part III: On the Edge,"defines an equally laborious show, though part of the problem is that the Great Hall is a disastrous space for showing art, particularly since the works are to be hung on the west wall only, thus leaving the balance of the cavernous hall virtually empty. Even when the art is top drawer, the Great Hall does the artists no favors.

Of the quilted pieces, most are worked-to-death, and my sympathies are with those whose solid craftsmanship (for example, Good Life Goldfish by Pat Zalewski) gets wildly confused and tangled up in mixed-media meandering. Margaret Magill's On the Edge is refreshingly simple, and On the Wing, a silk organza confection (elegantly understated) by Mary Ellen Heus, is outstanding for its clearly stated concept rendered in perfect materials. Buoyant and luminous, it is accompanied by a sensitive Helen Padway poem about hope. Padway's words are equally light and luminous.

Outside of the Great Hall, through the east-facing glass doors, an English garden is abloom. The exhibit inside mostly misses the mark, but the bearded purple irises embracing the Allis make a visit on a June day worth the effort.