- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2003

Picture a young, Japanese-born woman raised in Germany who returns to Japan for a visit. She meets Jorg Schmeisser , a German artist studying there, and he shows her around. He introduces her to traditional Japanese baths, the epitome of that country’s culture for him, and this embarrasses her.
  
  Despite this, she falls in love, marries the guy and moves back to Germany with him. In 1978, the two immigrate to Australia as a couple, and he becomes head of the print department at Canberra University.
  
  The woman is Keiko Amenomori-Schmeisser , also an artist. Her medium happens to be textiles, and crafts are now so much a part of the American art experience note the mammoth Smithsonian Craft Show being held at the National Building Museum this weekend that no apologies are necessary.
  
  Mrs. Amenomori-Schmeisser’s father was in the international textile trade in Hamburg, Germany, so her interest in fabrics was natural. Her exposure to Japanese, European and Australian cultures led her to an unusual kind of expression in cloth that marries Japanese textile techniques to Australia’s powerful landscape images.
  
  Fortunately for the District, the Embassy of Australia is now showing 25 of her extraordinary fiber panels in the exhibit “With the Flow, Against the Grain.”
  
  Most are large and hang almost ceiling to floor in the embassy’s gallery area. She started with “katazome,” paste-resist stencil-dyed prints, then enlarged them for a series of over-sized prints in the 1970s. She individualized each panel by painting over the printed images.
  
  One, “Grey Bark” from her “Botanic Series,” was inspired by an unusually flat, high mountain in Australia’s outback, as well as the trees around her home near Canberra.
  
  The artist added “shibori,” a process of shaped-resist and stitching to her work in 1995, after she helped internationally recognized Japanese fiber artist Hiroyuki Shindo give a workshop in Canberra. For the exhibit’s “Currents,” a dark blue-and-orange panel, Mrs. Amenomori-Schmeisser first stitched the cloth with very large needles, then pulled large areas of cloth together, and finally dunked the whole into a big container of indigo blue dye. The fabric then dried for several days.
  
  The embassy provides a video that shows her working with this process and several others. As demonstrated in the video, she began drawing with large sweeps of her hand, on a white linen cloth. The artist then transposed the lines with many thrusts of her stitching needle, keeping the lines white during the dyeing process. She then applied orange paint with a roller to a zig-zag area that she lined with sharply edged tape. The artist said she wanted to show Australia’s waves, and its currents, in the work.
  
  “First Light,” a delicate, bluish evocation of a sunrise during a recent camping trip through the Australian bush, was created in much the same way.
  
  The artist made another impressive panel, “Ochre Bark and Banksia Fruit,” with her usual shibori and dye technique but also stenciled a large, golden vertical area down the middle. On each side, smaller stenciled forms shaped like fish “swim” across a purplish linen support.
  
  In 1999, Australia’s House of Representatives commissioned her to produce banners for the 100th anniversary of Australia as a federation. She found that she had to work with a digital artist to reproduce her images on a large scale.
  
  Mrs. Amenomori-Schmeisser became so intrigued with the process that she added digital techniques to those she already used. In the video, she observes that the enormous stitching needles, essential to the shibori technique, are so important that they themselves became subjects for her geometrically configured, digital prints.
  
  One is “Large Circle,” a print on vinyl cloth, that pulls the needles out from a flickering, open-centered aureole. Others, such as “Column Enlargements,” are prints of needles stacked vertically.
  
  Veneration for, and working in, crafts comes from the ancient Japanese respect for all the arts. This remarkable show certainly confirms this.
  
  
  
  WHAT: “With the Flow, Against the Grain”
  
  WHERE: Embassy of Australia, 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW
  
  WHEN: By appointment only; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through May 16
  
  TICKETS: Free
  
  PHONE: 202/797-9383

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