Blackstone Takes Fiberworks Best in Show

Oklahoma City’s juried exhibit Fiberworks 2012 showcases two award-winning submissions by Julie Marks Blackstone, assistant professor of art at OBU, including an embroidered work which earned Best of Show. Blackstone said the two pieces are very different in technique and character.

Her piece titled “If Courbet Had Kandinsky’s Palette ...” won the Best of Show award. The piece is a small embroidered work which, Blackstone said, tried her patience mightily, as there are thousands upon thousands of French knots involved. It took her almost 60 hours to complete the work.

“‘If Courbet Had Kandinsky’s Palette...’ is actually something of a spoof on art history,” Blackstone said. “Courbet was a French realist -– a successful painter enjoying fame just before the Impressionist movement exploded onto the art world scene. He was influenced by the somber Dutch painters, and his dark values and colors reflected this source of inspiration.

“Courbet painted a number of self-portraits, and my piece was loosely based on one of these. Kandinsky was a polar opposite to Courbet in many ways. He is sometimes credited for painting the first non-representational abstract works, and his palette was gloriously saturated and brilliant. One of his best-known paintings is a group of multi-layered colored orbs.

“And so, as my title suggests, I merged the two styles, and then further turned the composition on its head by using a completely unexpected medium: cotton embroidery floss and French knots. This technique creates of kind of fiber pointillism, and the introduction of the abstract arbitrary color scheme adds to the ‘bi-polar’ effect of the art.”

Blackstone’s other accepted artwork won the Rachel Valliere Award for Best Original Handwoven Work. The piece was designed using a word draft technique of weave drafting, wherein a string of characters –- a word, or, in this case, a phrase -– is coded to make a threading sequence of the warp threads running through the loom. The coding assigns a shaft number to each character/letter of the selected words. The viewer cannot actually “see” the words in the design: Blackstone said the art is a bit like a secret code. The word draft used on this particular piece incorporated the following phrase: “Cancer is a word, not a sentence.”

“It was created as something of an homage to my mom, but also for other loved ones and friends who I’ve watched valiantly face the challenge of cancer,” Blackstone said. “This particular piece was woven with bamboo fiber, an incredibly strong, resilient, yet soft fiber that seemed perfectly suited to the meaning of the piece. The ‘pink’ color scheme is pretty self-evident.”

Janie Wester, professor emerita of art, had two handwoven wool rugs accepted by the juror for Fiberworks. They were titled “Baby Lizard in the Sun” and “Lizard Chasing His Tail.”

The annual Fiberworks exhibition, sponsored by Fiber Artists of Oklahoma, provides an opportunity for Oklahoma fiber artisans to showcase their work, from traditional crafts to innovative art. The eclectic show honors quality workmanship and original design. The exhibit also educates the public about the many facets of fiber artistry by presenting a wide range of media, techniques, and traditions in weaving, needlework, basketry, quilting, soft sculpture, paper, knitting and crocheting, felt and other works primarily constructed of fiber.

Fiberworks is showing at the IAO Art Gallery, 706 W. Sheridan in downtown Oklahoma City. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from Noon to 6 p.m., and the show is up through July 7.

Blackstone also had artwork accepted in the Oklahoma Art Guild’s “Oklahoma Friendly,” a national juried show in April featuring a wide range of media and styles that exemplify the friendly nature of the state. Blackstone’s piece is titled “Salt Plains Whooping Crane.” Oklahoma Friendly 2012 spotlights the works of 150 artists from Rhode Island to Alaska and from Wisconsin to Texas. The pieces were chosen from more than 730 submissions and displayed at the IAO Gallery.