The Fabric of Art
By: VANESSA FRANKO
Special to The Press-Enterprise
Riverside Art Museum shows artists' works that use materials
A group of artists are happy to be labeled material girls, and not in the Madonna sense of the phrase.
The 15 women have created pieces incorporating fiber media that are on display in a show called "Material Girls," which opens today at the Riverside Art Museum.
"The majority of it is not two-dimensional," said Andi Campognone, associate director of the museum and one of the curators of the exhibit. "I think people are really going to enjoy it."
There are quilts, sewn collages and patchwork dolls among the pieces, created by women who live in the Inland Empire, Southern California, and even Kansas and New York City.
"The connection is the material," said artist Penny McElroy, of Redlands. "I think the connection is also an approach and an affirmation of the feminine."
Her piece, "A Turning Night of Stars," incorporates mixed media of fabric, needle and thread, fragments from pattern pieces, wallpaper, tiles, and paper.
Artist Holly Tempo was inspired by microscopic forms of algae called diatoms for her work "Diatom Series."
"I like the feel of fabric and what it can say," McElroy said.
One of the elements of the piece is an outline of a woman placing her hand on her head. Inside the outline is a celestial scene.
McElroy said her father's death in the past year has inspired themes of reflection to appear in her work.
"You start to think about your place in the world," she said.
Reflection is one of the themes Cindy Rinne, of San Bernardino, explores in her quilts.
As an artist, she started in watercolor and then did acrylics but liked doing collage.
[Below: (Clockwise, from top left) "A Turning Night of Stars" by Penny McElroy; Mallory Cremin's "Front Yard"; "Mother Jones" and "40" both by Carol Es.]
The quilts, which are meant for hanging and not curling up under on a chilly night, incorporate painting, drawings, photographs and other media on the fabric.
She's even had fans of her work give her items to use.
"I get old lace, buttons and other things from people's families," Rinne said. "Beyond my story that's in the work, there's other people's history."
One of her works in the show, "Windows of Truth III," combines old lace with a reproduction of brown fabric from the 1800s.
It also has a frame of old lace, adorned with bright sequins, surrounding a picture of Rinne as a child.
"It's observing life and who I became and looking at yourself and who you are," Rinne said. "I like to think about things like that."
Other pieces of her work, such as "The Angels Are Dancing," explore the relationship between mother and daughter. Rinne made the quilt for her daughter about 10 years ago, when her daughter started taking pointe dance lessons.
The quilt incorporates a poem and a picture of her daughter dancing. The back has a drawing of pointe shoes.
Rinne's not the only artist in "Material Girls" who incorporates her family into the work.
"My art's pretty personal," said Carol Es, of San Pedro.
She grew up in a family who worked in the garment business. Her piece "40" uses 40 shirt collars, dyed blue, and time cards in a sewn collage.
"It's really a lot about my dad working the 40-hour week," she said. "It's this American work ethic -- the factory worker, the grunt worker -- it's addressing that whole thing going away."
As Es tackles large subjects in her work, artist Holly Tempo, who lives in Los Angeles, has work in the show inspired by the opposite extreme.
Diatoms, microscopic forms of algae, gave her an idea for a series of pieces.
She said that under a microscope, the fossils look like doilies.
"Like snowflakes, each one of the diatoms is unique," Tempo said.
Tempo, who used to teach at Riverside Community College, used an acrylic gel medium to replicate the intricate designs of the diatoms, usually on raw linen or painted linen.
She said she likes looking at things from macro and micro points of view exploring from the global perspective down to the cellular.
"My works often reference the two extremes," she said.
Tempo, who currently teaches at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, said that she has noticed both the art world and her students working with hands and referencing craft techniques, processes and materials, much like the works featured in "Material Girls.
"I think this show is really timely in that respect," Tempo said.
15 artists are participating in "Material Girls"
-Ke Sook Lee
-Mailan Thi Pham