The exhibition had unique origins. The Fiber Art Network and Fiber Art Now magazine approached the Hunterdon Art Museum about hosting an exhibition as a companion to their print exhibition Felt: Fiber Transformed.
“We wanted to feature art and non-traditional wearables that best represented the incredible depth and breadth of work being created using felt with an emphasis on exhibiting high-quality works of contemporary art, craft and design,” said Marjorie Frankel Nathanson, executive director of the Hunterdon Art Museum.
Resurgence in Felt Art
In recent years, felting has undergone a revival of sorts as contemporary artists rediscover the material’s versatility, durability and malleability.
“Felt has come a long way from simple scarves and kitschy flower brooches to the stunning creations you see today,” said Vinitha Sara, who served as a juror for the print exhibition. “These artists are pushing the boundaries with their ability to manipulate fiber, thus taking felting from an age-old traditional craft to the forefront of fiber art.”
Fiber artist Dawn Waters drew inspiration for her piece, Olga Was Never a Wallflower, after seeing photographs of women wearing large and impressive traditional Slavic ceremonial headdresses made of paper.
“I had been making needle-felted paintings for about two years when I created Olga,” Waters said. “Her face was created with one felting needle and wool, and her floral crown was made using the wet-felting method, with warm soapy water agitating the fibers so they meld. Her blouse is hand-stitched fabric and the background is cotton batik. The batik has no correlation to the Slavic headdress theme, I simply thought that fabric was beautiful.
Waters enjoyed putting floral crowns on her needle-felted ladies so much that she began putting them on a variety of subjects, including Keith Richards and Dolly Parton.
Another example of felt’s diversity can be seen in Rachel Montroy’s mixed-media sculptures, which offer personal meditations on the beauty of natural forms and their growth both physically and metaphorically. In works such as Ascend and A Fragile Realm, both appearing in HAM’s exhibition, Montroy’s works are hybrids of flowers, seeds, bulbs, fruit, and succulents, all combined to provoke contemplation.
“They are a delicate synthesis of botanical forms that are in various stages of maturation,” she notes. “I enjoy playing with certain nuances within these elements, like the tension created by a swollen berry or the way a stem bends as it reaches toward the sun.”
Artists with work in the HAM exhibition also include: Jacobo Alonso, Ellen Bakker, Kim Buchheit, Eva Camacho-Sanchez, Chantal Cardinal, Kristin Colombano, Heike Fink, Anna Goransson, Sugandha Gupta, Linda Hirschman, Shelley Jones, Hyunsoo Kim, Ryan Lytle, Pamela MacGregor, Katherine McClelland, Margaret-Ann Miller, Kim Paxson, Kimberly Pulli, Teresa Shields, Becky Stevens, Karen Thurman, Cathy Vigor and Cynthia Zyzda.