My husband and I blew it yesterday….literally. We took a glass blowing class as part of our empty nest practice. Akron Glass Works, owned by Jack Baker in the Northside Arts District of Akron, offers classes periodically to try one’s hand at different techniques.
Such experiences allow one to appreciate what artists do and understand what goes into the process of handmade art and one of a kind craft. Though we as artists can relate to why our product sometimes costs a bit much in the opinion of the General Public, it is those same people who buy a piece of glass from Pier One at half the price and don’t understand the difference. A canvas print from the World Market store may look just as nice on your bedroom wall, but thousands of other people have that same image in their home too. Preaching to the choir, I know.
Another advantage of taking a class in something totally new and different is that it keeps the brain cells active, especially when standing near a 2000 degree furnace. One must be attentive to everything. But, I am not writing about that, I want to talk about a show that is on display in the lower level of the Akron Glass Works building known as the Millworks Gallery.
I am not sure how much longer the show will be on display, but the fiber creations of Kaitlin Rothacher are worth the trip. The exhibit covers the gallery, almost literally, with pieces from 2006-2010 according to a 2 line listing in the Dec. 4th Artwalk flyer I found upstairs. That is about all I know. There is no statement, no titles, no prices, not even a sign of who is the artist. The space was unlocked for me (no heat either) to see the show and my guide told me this is a senior solo show for the artist who is set to graduate from KSU with a degree in fibers and textiles. Now before I go further, I should mention that at one time an artist’s statement was on the wall someplace, but was missing when I was there. I also want to explain why I get a bit irritated with the lack of labels, titles, prices and dates in any show regardless of student or professional. When submitting for exhibition consideration on the national level at museums, art centers and galleries that put out such calls, it is required that an inventory sheet of all pieces be provided which must include the title, date, size and price of each work in the portfolio (usually 20 jpegs). It is a matter of professionalism and good business practice because of insurance and other such matters. Art schools should be teaching this and requiring it for all graduates when they put on a show. Okay, enough ranting….back to the wonderful works of Ms. Rothacher.
The pieces on view show an extensive knowledge of many different types of textile techniques plus some creative combinations thereof. One will find felting, coiling, tapestry, loom weaving and hand weaving, collage, mesh, dying and just good old fashioned piling up of materials into big nest like forms. Because all art students take classes outside of their area of concentration, she also has some paintings and collages included, but hung in groupings so as not to distract from the scale of her textiles. The use of the space is ingenious as her structures hang off the vents, wrap around the walls and basically embrace the industrial architecture of the room itself as opposed to working around it as most exhibits have done in the past. Fibers do allow that process a bit better than framed work.
The pieces are large and colorful and full of patterns, combining materials in numerous ways to achieve little explosions of texture. From a tiny coiled basket that could belong to Barbie, to a very large nest and surrounding environment of almost interrupted performance art, the pieces are not seen as individual products, but as one long continuous development of her skills. Without dates or any form of reference however, I can only guess as to which direction she is headed with her art. Yes, there are some pieces that should have been edited from the show as they seem incongruous with the skill level of her larger works, but yet again, this is a senior thesis show so we should know by now what that means.
Several pieces to note are the pod-like forms of brightly colored fiberfill encased in wire that has been crocheted for lack of a better description. They hang as part of a larger creation reminding me of a scene from Alien only in a psychedelic world. On the far wall is collage piece that is part Kim’s Game and part treasure hunt. Encased in many, many little baggies are items ranging from a McDonald's ketchup packet to a birthday candle, with shells, pennies, keys, wrappers and other things enshrined and lined up row upon row. Without a title or anything type of reference however, I can only wonder as to her point with this piece and whether the intent is a positive one or a negative one. Perhaps that IS her point however, for the viewer to decide if this is trash or treasure. We both liked it quite a bit.
On the floor is a work made from a type of sheer fabric that has been worked in such a way as to resemble an eddy, also containing little encased items that upon closer look are metal washers. Other places of the fabric contain only the shape of the washer thereby creating a very complex positive and negative relationship within the seafoam green mesh fiber. It is this color and the ripple effect created by her manipulation that reminded me so of the movements of water and appropriately displayed on the floor like a puddle.
Textiles and fiber arts as a major is no longer offered at Akron U but is obviously a very strong department at neighboring Kent State most likely because of the fashion school for which they are noted. Ms. Rothacher is a very talented artist in this media and I hope we will be able to see more of her work in our local galleries and shows, this time with some prices next to the pieces because I am sure there would have been less in the Millworks room if such information was posted.