Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Praise of the Divine Duvet

In Praise of the Divine Duvet

By Tom Wachunas

Aegolius marveled at the beautiful jeweled garment displayed in one of the museum’s glass showcases. After he read the plaque that explained its history, he was puzzled. “It only says that it illustrates the Legend of the Mishamu,” he said to Nyctea. “But what then is the Legend?”
Nyctea stepped closer to the display, searching it carefully, her eyes glistening with delight. Then she giggled and said, “Well right you are. Maybe I should tell the curator the story too! The Mishamu were an ancient migratory people, ashamed of their plain appearance. They believed they could win favor with The Creator, and stand once again in his presence, if only they could clothe themselves in robes like the one he made for Lucifer. It was a magnificent robe, as large as the earth, and made of precious stones. When Lucifer was cast down to earth, his robe shattered into millions of tiny pieces. The Mishamu spent all their days wandering, looking for pieces to make their robes.”

- from “Mournings of the Grebes” by June Godwit –

Some of you might recall my mention of Carole Pollard’s work in my August 28 post, “Anima Humana,” which was about a group show at Summit Art Space in Akron called “My Spirit Rises.” Therein I fairly raved about two of Pollard’s quilts – “Awakening” and her triptych, “Melville’s Angel (I, II, III).” Fortunately for Canton viewers who missed the Akron show, those works plus eight other of her quilts are now on display through November 4 at Stark State College, in the second floor gallery of the Student Center.

Maybe a new word needs to be coined for this show, to circumvent tired clichés like ‘stunning,’ ‘breathtaking,’ or ‘astonishing.’ Let’s for now just call it Pollardian. The bar she has set in the realm of quilting (or fiber arts, if you prefer) is a lofty one indeed.

While there are some pieces here that are relatively rudimentary in structure and design, even the simplest (‘earlier’ works, perhaps) are exciting in their own right – particularly for their color. But the quilts that break the picture plane, as it were, with their astoundingly complex print and dye patterns, as well as delightfully eccentric rhythms of stitch and patch work, are certainly the most compelling. In that area, “Things Fall Apart” is a good (and humorous) example for starters, with its deliberately frayed edges and tangles of loose thread that punctuate its interior intricacies. Speaking of punctuation, when you look at “Chi,” don’t miss the tiny yellow and light blue triangles right in the center of the black-and-white Yin-Yang motif. They bring the rainbow periphery of the quilt into a vibrant counterpoint, like going from a whisper to a shout.

And once again I was drawn to “Awakening.” Not that I’m lazy or at a loss for words, but I think I got it right in my first assessment of the work when I saw it in Akron. So I’ll quote myself: “The thread work alone… is a journey unto itself. A road map to infinity? Combined with myriad colors and intertwined patterns upon intricate patterns, it’s an explosive celebration, perhaps, of celebration itself.” Additionally, the contour of the piece suggests a butterfly, or maybe a symmetrical universe unfolding in all its sumptuous textures and minute visual configurations.

There is about these Pollardian miracles of fiber a distinct spirituality – a visual and tactile magic at once archetypal and very contemporary. They conjure things both deeply personal and downright cosmic. Micro- and macroscopic. They might even be the raiment of angels.

Photo, courtesy Stark State College: “Awakening,” quilt by Carole Pollard, on view through November 4 at Stark State College Student Center. RECEPTION FOR THE ARTIST in Room 204 on WEDNESDAY, Sept. 29, 5 to 7 p.m. Gallery viewing hours 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday

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