The Sebastopol Center for the Arts has assembled some of the best fiber artists in the country – and several pieces from abroad – for its sixth biannual “Innovations in Fiber Art” show in downtown Sebastopol. One of my favorite pieces, “China Silk,” consists of nine silk-organza panels hung from the ceiling to create a diaphanous screen some ten feet wide. The artist, Marguerite Gignoux of Carrboro, North Carolina, used a photo collage by collaborator Barbara Tyroler, digitally printed on silk, which she sliced and rejoined with various rectangles of translucent white silk. French seams, running both vertically and horizontally, are punctuated here and there with colored squares, producing a hint of Mondrian. It's a beautiful construct – in Marguerite's words, “an architecture of light.”
Printed and photo-transferred images are popular at the show, from full-size shots seemingly pulled from the newspaper to random bits of color on tiny scraps of paper, all floating on webs of fragile threads. Just looking at the one such fragmented piece, “Urban Solitude,” by Eszter Bornemisza of Budapest, perhaps 3' wide and 7' high, was a master's class in the possibilities hinted at by the word “fiber.” A full-size woman's slip sewn from a delicate, tea-stained fabric that Julie Sirek of Minnesota has apparently made from scratch is another subtle, compelling work; her “Slipping Away” took second prize.
If I'm a little shaky on the subject of materials and techniques, it's because the show was, too. The one failing of this superbly hung exhibition was the complete absence of any discussion of medium for the pieces – unless you happened to find the appropriate loose-leaf binder at the desk and the artist had remembered to contribute a page. Unfortunately, artists often neglect that particular detail during their preparations. Linda Galletta, the center's Executive Director, has assured me that this defect is being remedied, however, so by the time you go you should have more information than was available for the reception.
There were several fabric collages, some quilting (first prize went to a fairly non-traditional quilt), handmade paper, a few pieces that would have been at home in an altered-book show, and – for the guys, I guess – a three-dimensional set of felt carpenter's tools. And plenty of tasty variations – 57 pieces in all – of almost any technique you could mention.
Also on display is the Center's new headquarters. Formerly Veteran's Hall Post 3919, the building, with a cavernous interior, a stage, a dining room, and crafts studios, was costing Sonoma County close to $200,00 a year to maintain, according to Galletta. Now they're actually making money on it (a buck a year), the Center has space for an ever-expanding set of programs, and the veterans have some company. This is the fourth building that the Sebastopol Center for the Arts has occupied in its 24 years, and it's three times the size of their previous digs at the end of Depot Street – “behind either a liquor store or the Goodwill, depending upon your orientation,” says Galletta.
For this show the Center's entire display space (stage and all) has been opened up, but moveable walls designed by former board president Robert Brent and built by local craftsmen can reconfigure the interior to house individual events – or even help with disaster relief if the nearby Russian River should overflow its banks. The whole project – and the world-class show that's currently running – is a win-win for everyone: the artists, the county, and the lucky citizens of Sebastopol.