Silvermine showcases fiber art innovation in virtual exhibit

While the Silvermine Arts Center’s galleries remain temporarily closed to visitors due to the coronavirus, the highly anticipated exhibition, “Fiber 2020” will be on view online through June 13. The exhibition will highlight contemporary fiber art, surveying the medium’s storied traditions and all its innovations in both functional and nonfunctional works that use natural fiber and/or high-tech materials.

The open call exhibition includes more than 50 artists from all over the United States and was curated by Beth C. McLaughlin, chief curator of exhibitions and collections at Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Mass. From political to sculptural, all the works share a common denominator: innovation. “Some works innovate with material to comment on today’s sociopolitical issues or to respond to our natural environment,” she said. “‘Fiber 2020’ offers an interesting mix of work: some may be considered more traditional and others venture into more experimental modalities.”

Part of the allure of contemporary craft has always been its unbreakable ties to past traditions and generations of makers that have expanded the field, McLaughlin explained, adding that today’s artists and craftspeople are building on their efforts. “So whether it be technique, message, or material, the works on display artfully merge tradition and innovation in their own extraordinary ways,” she said.

From political statements and photography-based works to portraits and works exploring consumerism, the exhibition presents a wide range of works. As disparate as each is, they work in harmony with each other. “When curating an open call exhibition like ‘Fiber 2020,’ I aim for a balanced group of artworks that will be in dialogue with each other, that collectively activate the gallery,” McLaughlin said. “I look for works with a strong point of view, and ones that are visually arresting and invite deeper discovery. But more than anything, I’m looking for those special works that achieve the perfect union of content, material, and technique. It really is the special sauce!”

Fiber art has been around for centuries but starting in the 1970s when it began coming off the walls, it has increasingly become three-dimensional, more experimental and innovative. Artists today demonstrate profound engagement with fiber as they aim to understand how this medium can best serve their specific expression. As a microcosm of the broader fiber arts field, the works in Fiber 2020 obliterate current boundaries through brilliant design, conflation of media, technique modernization, and other innovations.

Bridgeport artist Ruben Marroquin, who is represented in the exhibition with an embroidered map of New York City over linen, noted fiber art offers a unique set of challenges. “Yarns can be challenging to work with, the material is very frail, expensive and it tends to get tangled or break quite often, even though I work with the strongest available materials such as German quilting threads, Belgian linen, cotton and bamboo as well as metallics,” he said. The three-dimensional nature of yarns adds a sculptural element to pieces. “The process can be painstaking as it requires tremendous strength and intricacy. The biggest challenge, however, is how long each piece takes to be completed, long hours, weeks and months of slow progress translate eventually into the finished product.”

Challenges can lead to freedoms, however. “The slowness and arduousness of the stitching process can be a freedom as well, it’s an opportunity to slow down, filtering the energy as it slowly seeps from artist to the paintings,” he said.

Californian Regina Vorgang’s abstract table runner, “Life Lines,” evinces her predilection for using sustainable wool to create functional handwoven rugs, table runners and tapestries for the home. “I like to bring beauty to everyday objects that are used, appreciated and loved, then handed down from generation to generation,” she said in an artist’s statement. That use creates its own kind of beauty showing the love and caring by the owner and maker.”

Norwalk artist Francine Even’s bold “Hooked IV” has a rich textural quality, which is at the heart of what appeals to the artist about this medium. “What attracts and fulfills me about working with fiber is that it is extremely tactile. There is nothing separating me from the materials I use.”

To view the exhibit, visit