Sunday, March 2, 2014
This startling sculpture radiates a powerful presence. I was immediately drawn to it as soon as we entered the Contemporary gallery at the Delaware Art Museum last Thursday. Then I read the wall plaque about it. It is called Cauda Equina, by Keith Bently (b. 1973). "The artist drew on Victorian funeral rites to create a memorial to the thousands of horses killed each year in rendering plants. Made over a 12-year period, the sculpture incorporates approximately 1.4 million strands of hand-knotted horsehair collected from more than 250 slaughtered horses that function as a mourning veil."
I later looked at his website and saw that he has done other work using horse hair, this one using a tire as well:
The irony is that my friend and I were there to see FiberNext, an outstanding exhibition at the Delaware Art Museum, co-curated by Carol Cole, one of our Dumpster Diver Divas. Cole's work is also in the exhibit, as well as work by Ellen Sall, another Dumpster Diver Diva, along with ten other regional fiber artists. Photography was not allowed in the FiberNext gallery, but Ellen Sall's compelling piece is on the museum's website:
It is called Where is normal anyway? and includes vintage fabric scraps, embroidery floss, gel pens, plastic veggie bags, and seed beads. (2012, 13 x 13 1/2 inches). Seen in person, it glows like a jewel, and draws the eye into its myriad details until one has entered an alternate world.
Seeing FiberNext sensitized me to the tremendous range of what can be considered fiber-based materials. As the exhibit's write-up says, "Fiber art typically refers to works of art that incorporate fabric or yarn and favors aesthetic value over utility. Broadening the boundaries of this medium, the artists featured in FiberNext have branched out to incorporate an eclectic array of materials and techniques, including metal, digital embroidery, plastic, paper, clay, photography, wood, and recycled materials. Their works encompass a range of color, texture, and materials, and concepts such as community, gender, and upcycling."
In the next gallery, seeing a sculpture made from 1.4 million hand-knotted strands of horsehair, I thought "what an unusual form of fiber art!" One of the unexpected residual benefits of having seen FiberNext is greater awareness of the many fibers all around us in our everyday lives, not to be taken for granted.
It was also fun to be at this museum for the first time. I've lived in the Philadelphia area three years now, and this was my first visit to The Delaware Art Museum. A permanent installation of Dale Chihuly's glass flowers covers the two story glass wall entrance. It casts different light depending on the time of day and the season, a moving play of light. You can see the sculpture garden through the windows. There is a labyrinth on the grounds as well. At the Autumn Equinox they have a labyrinth walk at dusk with luminarias lighting the way. I'm tempted to go...