November Issue 2001
Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC, Features Works by Becky Gray & Sondra Dorn
Featured in the Folk Art Center's Focus Gallery in Asheville, NC, through Nov. 27 is the work of two Southern Highland Craft Guild members from Western North Carolina who have sought and established a specialized niche in their chosen craft medium. Ceramicist Becky Gray (Bakersville, NC) dedicates her work to sculptural pieces bearing expressive human features, and fiber artist Sondra Dorn (Penland, NC) creates abstract, textural collages from fabric.
In Gray's work, we may be initially drawn to leaf textures or other shapes of nature's botanical subjects. But there is often surprise in finding a human face peering from it, calling for our attention, sharing with us "the joys and struggles of being human," as Gray describes it. These human faces bear expressions of innocence or openness that we aren't often privy to in our daily lives, expressions that we rarely see or use but for fleeting moments of spiritual awareness. The way Gray's human figures appear hooded in cloaks of foliage testify that the connection between humans and nature is closer than we sometimes admit. Her pieces act as reminders that we are not alone at the top of creation, but are nestled within the whole of earthly life forms. To this end, Gray's work is frequently used for ceremonial purposes, as part of regular reflection on our connection with things spiritual.
To make her sculptures, Gray uses thrown forms, extrusions and slabs that she manipulates and then raku fires. Directly after firing, the pieces are usually sprayed with water and cooled in a bed of hardwood sawdust. This creates an aged, and often stone-like appearance, in honor of the ancient and primitive artists who have influenced her. It is her hope that, a thousand years fron now, folks might look on her work just as we view ancient ceramic artwork, and recognize the human condition in it. Her work has been exhibited in such notable venues as the NC Museum of History, The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Blue Spiral 1, and the Southern Arts Federation's traveling exhibitions.
Sondra Dorn, who has studied and worked in fiber for over ten years, achieving a Master's Degree in Art from the University of Washington and a residency in Textiles at Penland School of Crafts, is fascinated by the characteristics and abilities of woven cloth. Her artwork explores cloth's capacity to withstand and absorb events and still maintain its integrity; not just events inflicted in our daily use of cloth, but also through dyeing, printing, stitching and "burning out" the material. Much in the way life's events are sequenced, Dorn uses these techniques one at a time until the cloth, like a life richly lived, is a maze of complexity and abstract messages. Like life observed from a distance, it contains interactions, rhythms, colors and textures.
Dorn starts with hand-dyed natural materials such as linen, cotton and silk. On the surface of these fabrics, she may hand silk-screen, paint or draw with bleaches or dyes. These are cut into pieces that she eventually re-attaches as a collage using hand and machine embroidery, and hand stitching. Upon this surface she uses a chemical that "burns out" or removes some of the material. With more stitching on that, the finished piece is intensely involved with detail and layers. On the final surface, the metaphor is clear: it has a past, has absorbed and released color, and shows the losses and repairs, the busy activity of stitching things together, and the bearing of loose threads. With this metaphor in mind, we identify the bright gladness and the ragged sorrow, the separation and re-joining, seeing that all the things life thrusts upon us can, in the end, be as a work of art.
For more information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings or call the Center at 828/298-7928.
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