Fame, fortune frame future of fiber art

“Flower Box” is a dimensional piece of fiber art by Mary McCauley of Fort Collins. Measuring 18 inches by 33 inches by 44 inches, it incorporates cotton, organza, twine, glass beads, cottonwood, jewelry wire, corrugated vinyl and threads. McCauley says her art conveys wabi sabi, the Japanese expression of the imperfection in nature that makes it beautiful.

Gay E. Lasher of Denver works with color, shape and line in computer-altered photographic elements, then ink-jet prints them onto cotton. Stitching provides texture. This piece, 52 inches by 46 inches, is titled “In the Beginning.” She is one of 20 artists whose work is being exhibited June 5 through July 19 in “Contemporary Fiber: Colorado Invitational 2014” at Helikon Gallery in Denver.

“Wrapped in Tradition” by Lea McComas of Superior measures 24 inches b 39 inches and is made of fabric, tulle and thread. McComas says her goal as an artist is to create a visual image that touches a memory or emotion buried in the psyche, forcing it to the conscious surfacce for fresh analysis.

“Three Seedlings” by Valerie White of Denver serves as a root metaphor for people, both intertwined beneath the surface. The mixed media textile combines cotton duck cloth, textile paint and dye; it measures 20 inches by 24 inches.

CAROL ANN WAUGH Fiber artist and curator of “Contemporary Fiber: Colorado Invitational 2014,” June 4 through July 19 at Helikon Gallery in Denver

Imagine the work of a 21st century art quilter fetching millions of dollars at Sotheby’s auction house at some distant future date the way a Picasso masterpiece might today.

Is it possible?

One of my favorite fiber artists, Carol Ann Waugh of Denver, strongly believes that works of fiber art should be collected, displayed and valued as highly as oil paintings.

“My personal mission is to elevate fiber art in the contemporary art world,” Waugh says.

Her recent actions speak even louder than her words.

Waugh has put together an exhibition of 20 fiber artists from across the state, titled “Contemporary Fiber: Colorado Invitational 2014,” which is scheduled June 5 through 
July 19 at the new Helikon Gallery, 3675 Wynkoop, Denver.

This will be the first major exhibit of fiber art in a privately owned contemporary gallery in the city of Denver, she says. Helikon opened last year in the River North Art District.

Waugh says Colorado is home to more than 350 fiber artists and, as exhibit curator, she invited this select group for its diverse practices, in addition to each artist’s “unique voice and commitment within the art field.”

A studio artist herself, Waugh owns aBuzz Gallery, 3340 Walnut St., Denver, where she displays her own work, as well as that of other fiber artists and other contemporary mediums. She mentors artists in marketing their work from a business perspective.

Much of her art can be found in hospitals, hotels, corporations and private collections.
  Waugh also teaches fiber art classes and has published a book titled “Stupendous Stitching.” I’m proud to say I have an autographed copy in my collection.

Waugh’s “Stupendous Stitching” series of fiber art is her most well-known body of work, with its couched cords and yarn, decorative machine stitches and hand embroidery.

She describes fiber art as a relatively new medium with traditional roots, encompassing all sorts of materials — not only textiles, but also wood and paper. Techniques can be weaving, felting, machine stitching, embroidery, painting, printing and dyeing.

An opening reception for “Contemporary Fiber: Colorado Invitational 2014” is planned from 6–10 p.m. June 5 at Helikon Gallery.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

On June 7, Waugh will moderate a panel of five artists, who will talk about the future of contemporary fiber art from 10 a.m. to noon at the gallery.

The panelists, all of whom have work in the exhibition, are Regina Benson, Jo Fitsell, Jeffrey Richards, Sara Rockinger and Ray Tomasso.

Each represents a different part of the fiber art medium, and they will share their experiences and vision for what’s next on the contemporary scene.

The panel discussion is co-sponsored by the regional associations of the Surface Design Association and Studio Art Quilt Associates.

Waugh welcomes anyone interested in fiber art to the discussion as well as to the exhibition.

“Nothing will evoke your passion as much as studying the works up close and personal,” she promises.

Waugh deserves a major round of applause for curating such an important state exhibition — finally, a showcase that values contemporary fiber art.

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