A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Mar 3, 2010
12:49 PM

A Common Thread

A Common Thread

Isn’t it fun to see stereotypes ripped apart, to witness clichés turned upside down? This is one of many reasons to visit Stitched Ground: Four Artists Embroider the Land, a new exhibition at the James Watrous Gallery presented in collaboration with the Design Gallery at the UW–Madison School of Human Ecology.

In this show, four Wisconsin artists use embroidery to offer unique depictions of the landscape. It’s a fascinating concept because both embroidery and the landscape are riddled with notions of how they ought to be done.

Embroidery is often regarded as a traditional, simple craft rooted in the home, and landscape art as filled with romantic, sweeping images of countryside. Do not expect art limited to either of these conventions in Stitched Ground.

Instead, you’ll find map-like works based on satellite imagery, quiet reflections on powerful forces of nature, a giant quilt referencing humankind’s alterations of nature, landscapes based on a city sewer system and more.

Drawing from maps and satellite images, Madison’s Leah Evans uses sumptuous fabrics in bold colors and patterns, as well as embellishments such as glass beads, to show the landscape from above. Her work is beautiful, but it also reveals devastation of the land. [Read more on Evans in a story that appeared in Madison Magazine’s February issue here.]

Terese Agnew, who lives in La Crosse, also comments on human impact on the environment in her large-scale quilts. In The D.O.T. Straightens Things Out, gray roads with yellow medians form a grid pattern over a lush forest scene. A man in a suit walks through the woods, furthering the idea of humans attempting to impose order on nature.

Miwaukee artist Chris Niver takes a different approach. Working with dark thread and light-colored cotton, he documents imaginary places. It’s an appealing juxtaposition, simple and lyrical lines depicting powerful and mammoth elements of nature, from waterfalls and crags to islands and plateaus.

And Sarah Gagnon of Madison offers two series of work, both of which incorporate circles and other geometric forms. Noticing the concrete organization of neighborhood streets are prompted Gagnon to create Daily Walks, a collection made primarily of linen and wool. And thinking about the complex system lurking underneath manhole covers inspired The City Beneath the City, a series that uses rayon, silk, nylon and other fabrics with color and shimmer.

Each work in Stitched Ground offers a unique approach to—and commentary on—the landscape. But when you look at how detailed the pieces are and think about the time and energy the artists took to make them, the show also makes you think about the work that goes into creating the natural world. And you can’t help but consider how much stands to be lost if we don’t take care of it.

Stitched Ground: Four Artists Embroider the Land runs through April 11 at the James Watrous Gallery inside Overture Center. For more information, call 265-2655 or visit wisconsinacademy.org.

Photo—showing details of works by (clockwise from top left) Niver, Gagnon, Evans and Agnew—courtesy of the James Watrous Gallery.

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About This Blog

As managing editor at Madison Magazine, I'm also an unabashed arts enthusiast. Paintings, plays, music, movies—I'm intrigued by all forms of creative expression. I enjoy talking with artists and sharing their insights, challenges, inspirations and latest endeavors. Check in regularly for details on events, previews and reviews, artist interviews and more! 

– Katie Vaughn
Follow Katie on Twitter @katiemv

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