A tale of a professor and her ‘weaving practices’

Last week, along with classmates, I visited the SOHE gallery, which is located at the school of ecology building, at UW-madison. The gallery exhibited Professor Marianne Fairbanks’s solo exhibition ‘Impractical Weaving Suggestions’.

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Last week, along with classmates, I visited the SOHE gallery, which is located at the school of ecology building, at UW-madison. The gallery exhibited Professor Marianne Fairbanks’s solo exhibition ‘Impractical Weaving Suggestions’. Like the tile suggested, the theme of the exhibition was about weaving, and various modes of practices derived from the action of weaving. Each piece of artwork recalled the basic pattern of weaving textile: a commitment to grid with straight horizontal and vertical lines. However embedded in this seemingly formulated structure, a sense of irregularity punctuated at viewers. For example, in a 3D design work, juxtaposing with the three-dimensional geometric shaped structure were several loosened soft lines that didn’t follow the rigidity of the overall style. The sudden collapse reminded me of Eva Hesse’s installation Right After (1969), with a sense of fluidity and uncertainty, and a strong evocative sensibility.

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At the same time, this collapse of order and structure struck me with its truthfulness, through which the structure of the material spoke the true inner state of Professor Fairbanks, evoking a sense of fragility, listlessness or tenderness. Though in the exhibition, each piece of work referenced to a mathematical theory, for example, matrix, geometry and permutation, however, this sudden leak of emotionality broke down the pure logical aspect of the works, and connected with viewers through an innermost venue. This perhaps was what made this exhibition so beautiful, poetic and memorable.
Several steps away from the three-dimensional geometry work, a table was placed at the left side of the gallery, on the table, various practical weaving works were displayed, they were made in relatively minimal size contrasting to the geometric 3D work. Each of them was used with different materials, and was embedded with clear visible traces of labor. By placing these weaving patterns on a table with the deliberate exposure of dexterity with weaving, the work alluded to the domestic setting of the weaving factory, a place where women are traditionally associated. However, different from the traditional labor works, professor Fairbanks’s weaving suggests the intellectual labor of the works. By practicing the pattern with various color combination and materials, these works like Brancusi’s ‘Bird in Space’, questioning the various nuances between the notions of art, craft and object.

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And this work, with multiple practices with material, raised a question: to what extend can you call an object art? I guess, to this question, various people have various standpoints, but in Professor Fairbanks’s case, for an object to transit to a piece of artwork, perhaps artist’s own truthful emotionality and conceptual labor are two essential elements. With a sense of sentimentality and a degree of intelligence, Professor Fairbanks transits the objects into the categories of art, through which each piece of work becomes the tangible form of representation that speaks to an intangible emotive and intellectual state of the artist, and awaits for visitors to participate in this story-telling voyage of a myths between an artist and her relationship with ‘weaving practices’.

For more information about Professor Fairbanks and her works, please check her website:
http://www.mariannefairbanks.com

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