- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

Weavers don't just weave anymore, and "Technology as Catalyst: Textile Artists on the Cutting Edge" shows why. These craftsmen have gone high-tech along with the rest of the world sometimes with mixed results.
The work of six artists appears in the show at the Textile Museum in Northwest. Rebecca A.T. Stevens, museum consulting curator for contemporary textiles, selected the six because they use digital printing or digital weaving equipment to explore traditional techniques in new ways.
She chose well in showing work by topnotch American craftspersons Susan Brandeis, Lia Cook, Junco Sato Pollack, Cynthia Schira, Carol Westfall and Hitoshi Ujiie. Several of the artists created works especially for the show.
Only Miss Cook's digitally generated weavings of images such as "Big Baby" made from a childhood photograph suffer from looking mechanical, as if they're hot off a computer. Miss Cook, a professor at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, has lost the sensuous and tactile qualities of her former admirable work and traditional fibers.
Miss Stevens dramatically and effectively orchestrated the exhibit. Visitors enter through a darkened gallery that holds Miss Westfall's mysteriously evocative triptych "Ichi, Ni, San Carp." It could be the splashes of carps in a dark pool. Her images grow from photographs taken on her extensive travels and research trips through Japan, Mexico, India, England and Switzerland.
Miss Westfall, a fine arts professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey, manipulates a photograph for her own remarkable expressions. She uses digital printers and handprinting for atmospheric textile installations such as "Ichi." Her work reflects Asian inspirations.
Viewers emerge from dark into light with Mr. Ujiie's diaphanous, enormous untitled installation. Mr. Ujiie, a resident artist at the museum through April, hung three layerings of transparent, plant-filled fabrics from the gallery's ceiling so viewers can experience different images as they move around the piece. He also scatters digitally printed plant images that seem to dance across the moving backgrounds.
"Digital fabric printing allows me to print any image onto fabrics without being controlled by the limitations of printing and dyeing techniques that we see in conventional methods. It gives me creative freedom," he says.
Another artist who dyes and transforms cloth surfaces is Miss Pollack. Her two-story-high "Sky/Clouds/Wind" of cobalt metallic polyester dominates the exhibit's tall central gallery along with Miss Schira's 23-foot-high "Nocturnal Mirage." Miss Pollack, the head of the textiles program at Georgia State University's School of Art and Design in Atlanta, is Japanese-born. She trained with a master silk weaver in Kyoto.
Since moving to the United States, she has focused on digitally applied surface designs on gossamer, a translucent cloth. The artist uses a "sublimation" technique, which lets chemical dyes combine with polymer fibers in the fabric and enrich it. Another of her works in the show is "Sky/Clouds."
Miss Schira is one of the textile world's most towering figures, and her dramatically patterned, thickly woven "Nocturnal Mirage" is the exhibit's most gripping weaving. She has used computerized looms since 1983 to create complicated, woven fabric structures. The artist was one of the first to recognize the potential of computerization for handweavers.
Her pieces hypnotize through their repeat patterning; she considers weaving a visual metaphor for cyclical and repetitive aspects of life and nature.
"Nocturnal Mirage" is an interpretation of the encompassing quality of a winter night. Although the work is related to previous work, the totality of the piece is unique. "I hope that the work might give the viewer visual pleasure and make her/him consider the many ways of looking at a familiar experience," she writes in the exhibit's brochure.
Mrs. Brandeis, who teaches at North Carolina State University's School of Design in Raleigh, combines surface texturing and woven structuring with applique. She layers composite images of tiny details from admired gardens and landscapes using both new technologies and traditional hand methods.
The Textile Museum organized this intriguing exhibition and produced a handsome and educational catalog. After closing at the museum on July 28, the show travels to the North Carolina State University Gallery of Art and Design in Raleigh.

WHAT: "Technology as Catalyst: Textile Artists on the Cutting Edge"
WHERE: Textile Museum, 2320 S St. NW
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, through July 28
TICKETS: Free, with a suggested donation of $5. Today at the museum is Winter Family Festival Day, whichis free.
PHONE: 202/667-0441

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