I wasted a beautiful warm Stanthorpe day – or did I? Instead of being outside, I enjoyed four different exhibitions in the Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery. The glass cases along the wall in the downstairs gallery contained an eclectic mix of ceramic, embroidery, copper and fibre. I was startled to see The shy little kitten, a favourite bedtime story with the Warsaw twins, and Tootle, also a favourite but definitely not at bedtime, (too much TOOOOTing), featured in the embroidery.
Upstairs was an exhibition called Quilt!3 by Fibre Arts Australia which, says the catalogue, “moves the quilt off the bed and onto the wall”. I loved the movement and the shadows as the breeze, probably created by my passing, stirred the hangings, and not just the organza ones.
There were two quilts that reminded me of the discussion about the place of background information in art a few weeks ago. The quilt made of baby cards with a featureless doll sitting in front of it meant nothing until I read the artists’s statement. This artwork is part of a long-drawn-out creative attempt to come to terms with her husband’s gender reassignment surgery. In her concept the doll is lying on the quilt, genderless.
The second one is a flimsy apron-like patchwork. Here the knowledge of the materials used deepens the meaning, and the beauty. The artist says “There’s something that draws me to rubbish. My current work continues my interest in other cultures and discarded materials. The fabric finds on the beach of Flores have already been used by fisherman for tying up their boats, and various other uses … I have fused the fabric scraps together using Kantha stitch which a traditional way of reinventing old saris … This much-used cloth now holds a story.”
My favourite hanging was in strips, and very mobile. It took a long time to catch it in enough stillness to photograph: leaves imprinted on paint colour-cards. I would like something like this hanging in the space above my stairwell at home – wafting, leaved and earth-coloured (which maybe wouldn’t go with my warm pink.)
The third exhibition was impossible to photograph: intimate photos of African wildlife – lions drinking, zebras nuzzling, a bird in the act of catching an insect, a waterbird stepping it out over lilly pads – all behind highly reflective glass in a narrow room, crowded with women talking about their African experience, or that of someone they knew.
The main exhibition was Morris mania, work by Dorothy Haig, stemming from William Morris’s belief that everyone should create art. Her images are drawn from nature: plasticine and digital prints on silk, hand-dyed with native hibiscus flowers, and olive, eucalypt, mulberry and mistletoe leaves. These exquisite pieces were what one of the participants in the workshop a few weeks ago claimed were craft, not art.
So did I waste that perfect sunny day? I don’t think so!