Kent State Museum adds new juried exhibition for display

The Kent State Museum added a brand new juried exhibition this month called “Focus: Fiber,” featuring 56 pieces of contemporary textile art for the public to see until July 3.

“The school of arts here at Kent has a very fine fiber arts program, and so we like to do things that relate to other departments and schools across campus,” said Kent State Museum director Jean Druesedow. “I was really happy to bring the exhibition to campus because it brings a lot of students from different disciplines.”

According to the Kent State University Museum’s page, the juried exhibition began in 1967 under The Cleveland Museum of Art’s affiliate group, the Textile Art Alliance (TAA). As of 2014, Mary Ann Tipple, the former president of TAA, coordinated the exhibit and made it a national competition four years ago.

“At the beginning we had 191 artists that entered the show … and 465 pieces of art to look at,” Tipple said. “This year we did an online entry, and then they have a scoring process that she worked out however she wanted to. It’s a blind jury so (that) it’s fair to everyone.”

TAA combines artists from various backgrounds with a common interest in the textile and fiber arts, making “Focus: Fiber” a significant biennial event. This is the first year Kent State will be hosting the exhibition.

“We wanted the show close to Cleveland, and we had a lot of artists who were former students at Kent. Kent State has a great reputation with fiber,” Tipple said. “We’ve toured the school and looked at the fabric printer a few times. If you want to be a clothing designer, definitely look at Kent State.”

“Focus: Fiber” is a way for TAA to bring attention to textiles in the world of art. Although, the most obvious use for textiles and fabrics is making clothing, the exhibition focuses on the intricate detail that turns it into art.

“When you think about fiber, it’s like one of the oldest things that people made,” Tipple said. “There’s so much to look at when you go into the exhibit: weaving, knitting, basketry, paper folding, all of that. We included a lot of things.”

The exhibit shows what a creative mind can make with many different styles of art.

“Anything is possible. It’s all creativity and just the wonderful things that people can do if they put their minds to it. There’s so much variety. They say that ‘there’s nothing new under the sun,’ but I’m not too sure,” Tipple said.

Renowned artist and former gallery owner, Jane Sauer, will judge the pieces in the exhibition, which includes everything from basket weaving to embroidery. One piece by artist Grace Gee Ajemain included miniature woven sculptures of organs within the human body.

“She was very ill. She had sepsis, and every organ that she did in the exhibit was affected. It raged through her whole body,” Druesedow said. “As part of the healing process, she made these pieces. It was all part of the process of realizing that she was still alive. It was extraordinary.”

“Focus: Fiber” combines fashion and art in an innovative and imaginative way. Both Tipple and Druesedow expressed how amazing it is that textiles are being seen as a versatile medium in the art world. They believe a lot of the intricacies of textiles will attract students from all majors and minors.

Haleigh Shammo, a junior conflict management major, said she was inspired by Ajemain’s piece.

“My favorite piece was the organs of the body because of the intricate detail,” Shammo said. “You could just tell it took a lot of time, patience and effort. It was inspirational.”

 TAA and Sauer will be hosting a lecture, critique workshop and question and answer session from June 17-19 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Updates will be posted on the TAA website.

Ile-Ife Okantah is a fashion reporter for The Kent Stater and Holly Disch is the visual arts reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact them at [email protected] and [email protected]