Julie Marks Blackstone, assistant professor of art at Oklahoma Baptist University, recently had a fiber art piece accepted in Small Expressions 2017, the Handweavers Guild of America’s annual international juried exhibition of small-scale fiber works. This year's show is hosted by The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. The show runs through July 29.
Featuring the work of 24 artists using a wide range of fiber techniques, the show requires that each piece is no greater than 15 inches in any direction. With thousands of pieces submitted since its inception, the show has included works by artists from each of the 50 states and more than 20 foreign countries, and it has traveled to art institutions across the U.S. and internationally.
Now in its 34th year, the Small Expressions annual exhibition series was conceived in 1983 by the board of directors of the Handweavers Guild of America to mark the 15th anniversary of the organization. The format was initially inspired by small-scale fiber shows in England and Hungary. The series not only provides a platform for artists working in fiber but also a format that encourages innovation.
Blackstone’s figure, made in spring, 2016, and titled, “Knotty Girl,” is loosely based on some photos of an artist/friend, and the background is based on a Lee Krasner painting, “Image Surfacing” painted in 1944. She has done a series of fiber pieces sourcing art history, i.e., “If Courbet had Kandinsky's Palette” and this particular piece was influenced by the series including her “Knotty Girl” series based on famous femme fatales. Blackstone’s figure was originally titled, "Knotty Girl VIII: The Occasionally Knotty Krasner Fan" but she shortened it for the show.
Blackstone employed a play on words in naming her figure. The “knotty girl” series is a play on the words knotty vs. naughty because the technique uses the French knot technique. The subjects of the series were often considered “naughty” by their culture or society. As referenced above, the background was inspired by an artist, Krasner, who may have considered herself provocatively naughty at times, in an artistic way, of course. Other women in the “knotty” series include Mona Lisa, Cleopatra, Madame X, Mata Hari, Medusa, Jezebel and Sally Rand.
Blackstone has submitted work once before to the Small Expressions exhibit, and was fortunate enough to have work accepted in the 2014 show. Her 2014 show piece was displayed at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts. Each year she submits work to the regional fibers show, Fiberworks, and has had work accepted every year, with three "Best of Show" awards in addition to several other honors.
“To have work accepted in an international juried show is an honor that any working artist dreams of,” Blackstone said. “HGA shows are incredibly competitive, and to have had work accepted twice is a dream fulfilled.”
“My non-art colleagues have academic work published in journals, research presentations, recitals, etc., to fulfill their obligations as faculty in our continuing efforts to excel in our respective fields. But in art, showing our work is the equivalent, and having work accepted in a show of this caliber is icing on the cake.”
In fall 2016, Blackstone’s exhibit ‘The Eighteen Day Deadline” was featured in the Geiger Center on OBU’s campus. The display featured oil and canvas pieces.
To view Blackstone’s piece along with the other pieces from the Small Expressions 2017 show, visit www.crafthouston.org/exhibition/smallexpressions/. For more information on studying art at OBU, visit www.okbu.edu/fine-arts/art-design.