The Woodstock Times
July 20, 2006
"Where art is fun"
by Paul Smart

Wondering where it's at, visually, in Woodstock this weekend? Look no further than the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, including all its various venues. The riches, open for weeks now but all wrapping together nicely with the addition of a potluck event at the Byrdcliffe Colony's very-active Villetta Inn on Friday evening, July 21, and a weekend-long furniture-making and appreciation workshop in the Barn, range from the perfect weather (at last!) to a fascinating new outdoor sculpture show.

And best of all, you've just got to get over to the Kleinert/James Arts Center just off the village green to see the fabulously fun and wildly provocative ThreadBare exhibit of modern-day textile artists before it comes down in a few weeks. And buy!

Put together with a good degree of impish mischief by local artists Stella Chasteen, Heather Hutchison and Portia Munson - none of whom work in the medium they are showing, at least directly - this show is fun from the moment one enters the gallery's usually staid entry, which has been filled with a mass of fun display materials put together by Woodstock Wool's Paul Leone, as well as special ThreadBare logo-wrapped sewing cuts on sale for a minimum amount.

Once inside, the excitement is palpable immediately. Mark Newport has two giantly elongated superhero costumes dangling from the large room's high rafters. To the right is one of Devorah Sperber's obsessively fascinating optical thread spool works, looking like a beautiful but slightly opaque design of colored objects until one sees its shape and form come together as one of Renoir's girls in the glass orb that sits before it all. Simply stunning... and a good example of why this Woodstock-based artist's work is so hot on the commissioning front these days.

Cattycorner to Sperber's piece are four strange sampler epiphanies by Donna Sharrett, delicate arrays of human hair and rose petals, glass beads and hammer pins on wax or earth backgrounds... reminiscent of past mementoes and yet completely modern in some mysterious manner. Is it their naming or the post-modern preciousness of execution, self-aware and yet able to get beyond the personal and imply oodles of possible messages?

We've been watching Hudson-based Lee Musselman explore distressed dolls heads for some time now but what he's made of them here is a breakthrough... fit into crazy quilt or insanely knit bodies that make one think of Dali on steroids. Could be frightening if it weren't for the joyous use of color and exact placement of the pieces, by the curators, with less ominous pieces surrounding.

Such as Woodstocker John Krynick's knit cotton samplers of prosaic sentences, one stretching the entire last Norma Desmond "Mr. DeMille" speech from Sunset Boulevard across a dishtowel-sized surface. He's also got a series of fantastic woven newspaper works that someone should purchase immediately. One is an entire Sunday New York Times worked down to the size of a large washcloth; the other an entire week's worth of the same paper in the size of a bath towel.

Such, too, as Newport's embroidered comic book samplers... Johnny Storm and Catwoman brought to some odd place between cool kitsch and personally fetishized warmth. Or Sally Agee's Pop-like fabric collages, which seem to imply broken narratives from half-remembered childhoods, and Elena Herzog's how-could-she-have-done-it weavings of various materials into drywall. Talk about taking the ideas of abstract expressionism and process art into new realms! Or Beth Humphrey's "etchings" made with silk thread...

Even the video piece of Paula Lalala cutting up every piece of clothing she has is both entertaining and, strangely, thoughtful, friendly. Just as Robyn Love's Memorial/Doughboy, a giant knitted wool coverling placed on a statue in Queens, has both a sweetness and a conceptual strength to it.

The thing about everything here is that it plays the contemporary art world's penchant for concept against an almost-obsolete respect for craftsmanship and detail-work. You look at the prices on the exhibit's beautifully done master list, with descriptions next to thumbnail images instead of numbers, and say, "That makes sense. Consider the time and effort..."

How did this all come together? Don't need to know, I figure. It works to have friends doing great things, especially when we can all benefit, as we do from this exhibit.

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                          		                                                                                                                               © Devorah Sperber Inc. 2000