A Riot of Color: Spring Shows at Gallery in the Woods
Nika Feldman's Textile Installation: "Shadow Soul Silhouette Project"
Nika explains: "With an inspiration to examine cultural identity collectively—thinking in terms of humans as a species—I created this series of small figures called 'Shadow Soul Silhouettes.' The initial intrigue for me is rooted in the observation that there is a universal human instinct to decorate oneself, possibly because we are, in our natural state, one of the most visually plain species that exists when one compares the naked human against the colours and patterns sported by insects, fish, birds, animals and even the players in the plant kingdom....
"Most of all we accomplish a visual transformation through the use of textiles for the body. The costumes created are one of the primary vehicles for carrying a culture's identity. In order to deconstruct these cultural identities for this project, I have attempted to decontextualize the three most prominent visual elements of costume: form, color, and pattern."
Maintaining ties to Vermont, Nika studied textiles in Japan through a prestigious Japanese Government scholarship. A featured artist in American Craft Magazine, she mates activism with artform, including work with Quilts for Kids in Nepal, a microfinance operation that helps send children to school, and an anti-rape women's fashion event in Mumbai, where the models were dressed as superheroes. She currently resides in Cape Breton, Canada.
"Alebrijes: Animals from the Dream"—Painted Wood Sculpture from Two Generations and Three Villages
This exhibit features the new work of families from three villages in the Oaxaca valley of southern Mexico. With woodcarving origins in the traditions of carved festival masks, Alebrijes are small sculptures with their origin in children's toys and talismans. They are conceived as creatures from dreams, carved with machete and smaller knives from copal wood and intricately painted with enamels. This handcraft has for two generations supported and sustained the villages from which it has emerged, contributing to the viable home craft economy of the Oaxaca area.
The pieces are produced by the extended family. Often the men carve and the women paint. The making of Alebrijes has matured for some artists into an emerging one-of-a-kind sculptural art form over its roughly 30-year lifespan, and through perseverance the artists have received acclaim as artists both in Mexico and abroad.
Influenced by animation and intrigued by other artforms, younger artists of this generation contribute a pop aesthetic and a personal style to the mix.
Recent Huichol Yarn Paintings: Modern Art from a Culture of Ancient Shamanism
José Benitez Sánchez, the foremost living yarn painter, has revived and maintained a teaching tradition linking spiritual art and practice for the Huichol communities in the Sierra Madre mountain range of Mexico.
"I have exhibited in New York, Philadelphia, Massachusetts, Washington, Chicago, Sacramento, San Jose, Berkeley, and Los Angeles," says the artist. "I have also shown my work in Canada and Europe. An original work has value because it is the respiration of a mind, a recognition obtained from a person's sacrifice, from a sacred place.... It's as if my memory comes to me through my ancestral gods. I always talk about the body of the world. And the fact is, we each have the body of the world—every speck, every small hair contains the face of the gods."
As Peter Furst, curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, explains, "These fleeting visions are of the Huichol world as it came into creation in a mystical natural environment that has no boundaries between the present and the ancestral past. It is the otherworldly visions, triggered by the use of the sacred peyote cactus, which inspire shaman-artists ... to paint in yarn."
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