2014 Newtown Hooked Art Exhibition

2014 Newtown Hooked Art Exhibition

Published on Monday, November 24, 2014.
Land Parcel Quad

Tracy Jamar's Land Parcel Quad won the Jurors Choice Award.

Through 50 works by 18 artists, the 2014 Newtown Hooked Art Exhibition illustrates personal perspectives, technical virtuosity, and innovation. Since 2001, artist Liz Alpert Fay and publicist Sherry Paisley have spearheaded an effort to showcase fiber artists whose hooked artwork is powerfully expressive. The duo established the first annual hooked art juried exhibition in 2001. This exhibition is the 10th they’ve co-produced.

The artworks reflect the concerns of contemporary American life – political, economic, and social. Subjects include gender, income inequality, diversity, and concern about the environment. Portraits, landscapes, still life, and abstract compositions – are represented as well.

In Rachelle LeBlanc’s portrait Revelation, a barefoot young girl with outstretched arms stands in an open landscape, her flowing scarf suggesting a clerical vestment. In June Myles’ What Kerfuffle aka The Banker, a formally dressed gentleman is casually seated with an open Wall Street Journal on his lap. Leslie Giuliani’s Man has the playfulness of the non-representational figures of the French painter Jean Dubuffet.

Tracy Jamar’s organically integrated Land Parcels Quad is mapped into a coherent abstract design of curves and angles ¬– a bird’s eye view of towns, farms, and fields. One could interpret Michelle Sirois-Silver’s abstract Recovery Method 2 and Marilyn Bottjer’s Wetlands as landscapes. Alice Rudell’s glowing House of Gold has a muted shadowy surround.

Feminist issues underscore Linda Coughlin’s Equal Justice, a portrait of a barefoot woman walking with a huge sack on her back. Constance Old addresses the environment with the text “plastic floats forever” on a blue water ground.

Several artists worked in three dimensions. Mary Jane Andreozzi pays homage to natural forms in Possession, a sculptural tree trunk and branches. In Liz Alpert Fay’s installation True North, two stroked paddles activate a column of plastic strands that rise above a hooked circular game board, creating unexpected movement. Molly Colgrove transforms the ceramic African-American face jug into a fabric medium of wool, beads, and handmade clay teeth.

In this exhibition, traditional hooking is combined with braiding, appliqué, spool- and hand-knitting, punch needle and machine embroidery, and needle felting. Among the materials incorporated into the works are wool, velvet, hair, fur, plastic, wire, tree branches, hosiery, and glass eyes.

Hooked art arose from the American tradition of hand-sewn and hooked rugs. The “hearth rug,” a hooked rug mentioned in the Oxford English Dictionary (1810), became increasingly popular in the early 19th century. By mid-century, it was the dominant rug form.

The hooking technique arose shortly after the introduction of jute in North America. Its appearance led to the production of burlap, an inexpensive foundation cloth for rugs.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, hand-sewn and shirred yarn-sewn rugs were placed on beds and tables. With hooking techniques popularized in hearth rugs, the rug moved to the floor. During the 20th century, hooked works were hung on walls.

That this labor-intensive art form thrives in our technological culture is extraordinary. Perhaps these artists feel a moral imperative to create the “old-fashioned” way.

The exhibition continues through November 29 at the Gallery at the University of Connecticut, Stamford campus. Lee Kogan is curator emerita of the American Folk Art Museum.