Shinique Smith
July 23, 2009

Shinique Smith, Bale Variant no. 0017, 2009 (detail)

Shinique Smith, Bale Variant No. 0017, 2009 (detail)

I don’t write about art exhibitions often, but two of my favorite words kept popping up in connection with Shinique Smith’s current show: “textiles” and “calligraphy.”

This dynamic multi-media solo exhibition, Ten Times Myself,  comprises new paintings, sculpture, and collages that incorporate used clothing, fragments and bunches of textiles, and funky found objects.  Ms. Smith’s work is influenced by Abstract Expressionism, rap music, pop culture, and Japanese calligraphy, among other things. The exhibition can be seen at the Yvon Lambert Gallery, in far west Chelsea, NYC, until July 31, but if you can’t get there, the gallery’s website has an excellent slideshow.

The photo above, which looks like a bundle of laundry, is a detail from one of the pieces in the exhibition, Bale Variant No. 0017, 2009.  Ms. Smith created it out of used and discarded clothing and fabric that has been commercially dyed from white into shades of indigo, written on, bound up, and finally reborn as sculpture.

Bale Variant is one of my favorite pieces from the exhibition; because it makes me nostalgic, believe it or not, for the bales of textile waste (which I used to ignore when I walked by them) that used to litter Mercer and Greene streets, when I lived there. I don’t know what actually became of those bales of rags, but they were on their way to be recycled, way before the word, and the neighborhood, were cool.

An example of Ms. Smith calligraphic style is shown below, in a detail from And The World Don’t Stop.

And the World Don't Stop

Ms. Smith has studied Japanese calligraphy, and her exuberant, swooping lines teeter between Japanese calligraphy and graffiti, — but they look to me like some styles of Arabic calligraphy as well.

So I recommend the show because it is original, thoughtful, and about fiber, and like too many of the shows that I write about, it will close soon.

Twain Revell: Enterprising free spirit
February 13, 2009

A talk about “Spinning Exotic Fibers” would not normally entice me to a Weavers’ Guild meeting on a freezing Saturday morning, but the possibility of seeing the speaker’s giant angora rabbit was irresistible.

Twain Revell was the guest speaker. “Spinner” doesn’t begin to define her skills, but she is unquestionably an expert spinner who has spun all of the usual fibers, plus bamboo and corn fibers, dog hair, and rabbit — spinning straight from the rabbit while it was in her lap. She is also a knitter, crocheter, sewer, designer, dynamic speaker, and sometime stand-up comic.

Twain majored in marketing in college, then worked at the World Bank where a knitting group reawakened her interest in knitting. Knitting inspired her to learn to spin, and that led to her leaving the World Bank to start a new life as a fiber artist in Harlem.

Twain brought many of her one-of-a-kind pieces, and other visuals, to illustrate her talk. She spoke of the gutsy career change that took her to retail shows, to fashion magazines, and down other roads that artists travel in trying to reach their audience. She emphasized that she does not sketch or follow trends; her inspiration comes from the materials.

twain-in-action3The best way to see the scope of Twain’s work — including her signature mud cloth designs — is to check out her website: The amazing, multicolored, knotted coat shown on her home page took 3 years to create and 5 years to sell. Twain said, “This whole thing is a patience thing,” and that’s a great motto.


After hearing Twain’s talk, I was surprised to find myself asking a friend to return my hand carders and drop spindle, but that impulse may pass.

Sorry to say that Twain’s giant angora rabbit, Lily White, passed away before the meeting took place, so I didn’t get to meet her after all.

Last call: African textiles PLUS
December 3, 2008

Detail of a Xenobia Bailey work

Detail of a Xenobia Bailey work

I learned from Holland Cotter’s art review in the NY Times today that there is another exhibition at NYU in conjunction with the African textiles exhibition, “The Poetics of Cloth,” that I mentioned in my Weave of the week #9.

The exhibition, “S&M: Shrines and Masquerades in Cosmopolitan Times,” is a mixed-media group show that sounds interesting and provocative, but it also got my attention because it includes a piece by Xenobia Bailey. I first became aware of Ms. Bailey’s work after seeing her impressive fiber structure, “Sistah Paradise’s Great Walls of Fire Revival Tent” at the Brooklyn Museum in 2006 (detail above).

You can see her current piece on the exhibition’s website: .

Both exhibitions close this Saturday, December 6.