New Directions

A juried exhibition of contemporary textiles

The Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles has a reputation for pushing the envelope. The museum’s most recent showing, New Directions: A Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Textiles, features technical, aesthetic and structural innovations in textile art. Organized by the Textile Society of America (TSA), the panel selected artists whose work reflects the changes in textile art. The exhibit runs through January 4, 2015. 

Suzanne Isken, Executive Director of CAFM writes in the exhibit’s accompanying catalogue, “This juried show demonstrates the enormous variety of contemporary artistic innovation which is core to the museum’s mission to challenge established ideas about craft by exhibiting compelling work that takes traditional techniques in often surprising directions. “

Highlights includes Whitney Artell’s examinations of her personal relationship to the urban landscape where “…the natural world merges with the built environment,” she explains in her statement. Artell weaves fabric on the jacquard loom, manipulating photographic imagery into complex patterned surfaces. “I then hand-manipulate to mimic the fusion of organic and structured geometries that describe a socially constructed nature.” 

Using materials such as yarn, thread, beads and wire to create objects that mimic the natural world but remain wholly artificial, Amy Gross calls her mixed media sculptures, “biotopes.” She writes of her work, “My embroidered and beaded fiber pieces are my attempt to merge the natural observable world with my own inner life: I’m trying to remake nature sieved through my own experiences. I’ve always been attracted and frightened by things that are in their fullest bloom but on the verge of spoiling. There’s such beauty and sadness to them, heightened by the undeniable inevitability of their ending. The process forces me to look at and think about what I would rather pretend does not exist – the heedlessness of time, the undermining of the visible and the invisible.” 

Tsumami zaiku, a traditional Japanese technique used by craftsmen since the Edo Period (1603-1867) for fabric flower hair ornaments worn with kimonos, was the source of inspiration for Mariko Kusomoto. She writes of her work, “I’m combining the classical techniques with a modern aesthetic. I dye silk with various colors and then cut them into squares, fold each petal, and assemble. For my other pieces, I used a heat-setting technique. I was so fascinated and amused by the ability of the synthetic fabric to permanently memorize shapes when heated. Since I had little information about how to heat-set synthetic fabric, I spent a lot of time experimenting with a kiln, trying different temperatures and using different shapes of metal and glasses for molds, which are removed after heat-setting. This is how all the shapes of my pieces are formed and also dyed in a kiln.” 

Originally a metalsmith, Kusumoto was drawn to textiles, and enjoys combining classical techniques with a modern aesthetic. “The process of discovering and exploring takes me to different places. I feel endless, unlimited possibilities with these techniques and materials: polyester, nylon, silk, and heat. Delicate, simple, and also detailed, I strive to create my own natural forms.” 

Sculptural textile artist June Lee’s Bystander was inspired by the Kitty Genovese murder in 1964 in Queens, where neighbors witnessed the murder and allegedly did nothing to stop it. For this project, Lee created small figures, taking two different postures: their arms are crossed, or have hands tied behind their back. According to Lee, “The two postures symbolize bystanders, hiding their hands and saying “I have no hands to help you” and ‘I have nothing to do with you.’” For each of the figures, the artist wrapped them in colored thread and formed patterns, symbolizing the individuality of each of the mini sculptures.

Fascinated by structure, Peggy Ostercamp weaves sheer cloth. “My idea was to weave three-dimensional objects out of very fine silk threads so that they would be translucent and mysterious. I want the viewer to see the shapes as they change with the air currents. The four veils are light and move, and look delicate and sheer, and cast shadows. I want the viewer to see the veils as a whole from a distance and to walk up close—nose-to-nose—with them and observe the beauty of the curves and shapes created by the woven threads. They could be hung out in space or hung so they cast moving shadows on a wall.” 

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