ORONO, Maine — Laurie Hicks knows well the ins and outs, and the walls and corners, of the Lord Hall Gallery — after all, she’s the curator there, as well as a University of Maine professor of art.
The mounting process for the gallery’s current exhibition, however, presented a new challenge.
“This was one of the things about this exhibition that as a curator was really, really different,” Hicks said in the gallery one morning about a week before the show opened. “It wasn’t just frames on the wall, which is what I’m used to. It was pieces that take up space in different kinds of ways.”
How does one hang a dress made from plastic, or jackets of hand-knit silk and hand-dyed rayon, or a three-dimensional piece composed of frayed violin wire and beeswax so that the viewer can see the entire work? That was Hicks’ task as she organized “Intertwined: An Exhibition of Maine Fiber Arts,” which features 59 works by 29 Maine artists.
Hicks worked on the exhibition with Christine Macchi of Maine Fiber Arts, whose files Hicks used to help select the works she wanted for the show. Hicks said Mary Bird, a faculty member in UMaine’s College of Education and Human Development who is involved with fiber arts in Maine, suggested that the university display some fiber work in conjunction with Fiber Arts Tour Weekend, a statewide event planned for Aug. 7-9 and meant to be similar to the Maine Art Museum Trail.
The works in “Intertwined” also come from all over the state and are made from a wide variety of materials.
“This is not a quilt show, and it’s not a paper show, but a mixture of mediums coming together,” Hicks said. “It’s the idea of intertwining textiles and fibers, and going from very contemporary to very traditional.”
Some of the traditional pieces included in “Intertwined” are made from the most contemporary of materials. Take that plastic dress, for example, a piece by Katharine Cobey called “Mirage.” The dress, which Hicks stretched in the opening between the main gallery and the side gallery so that the viewer can see it from all sides, looks like something out of the early 20th century, but it’s constructed from woven plastic strips with plastic fringe at the bottom.
Allison Cooke Brown uses traditional materials and rearranges them in a novel way. Her “Daydream” is made from old pillow ticking stitched together with a vintage tea towel. Carol Logie’s work is similar in her use of silk, cotton and mohair knitted over a plaster core to form cups and bowls.
In addition to the mix of traditional and contemporary, Hicks chose pieces that would add color. The main gallery features several red-themed hanging pieces, with Stephanie Green Levy’s “Rojo,” Mary Allen Chaisson’s “Swimming Dogs,” Gabriella D’Italia’s “Red Finery,” and Levy’s “Alborelli” lining one wall.
“I was thinking this was going to be a very vital, alive, colorful sort of exhibition because of the diversity and the intense use of color by many of the artists involved,” she said.
On the other hand, Andy Mauery’s “Exercise in Longing, One Violin Bow,” made of horsehair pieces from a violin bow assembled into a kind of puffy oval with the pieces attached with beeswax, is so airy and transparent that from some angles it is literally invisible. Hicks had another challenge in lighting the piece so that it would show up in the gallery.
Hicks also picked pieces with similar themes, such as the X’s and O’s in Natasha Kempers-Cullen’s art quilts, and the O’s in Levy’s hanging piece called “Circles Contanti” and Jo Diggs’ quilt “Industrial Park.”
“Intertwined” also includes pieces by Penobscot basket-maker Barbara Francis, a Shibori room screen by Kathleen Goddu, and wool, cotton and steel sculptures by Mia Kanazawa, and Susan Barrett Merrill’s wool, felt and linen masks over steel frames. There are also slippers and bags, a room screen, and an intricate box-within-a-box piece.
Near the exhibition’s entrance, Hicks positioned Katharine Cobey’s “Two Pillars” which are made of hand-spun Spelsau wool yarn and inspired by a peplos, which was a tube-shaped dress worn by ancient Greek women. It’s a fitting placement — considering the elegant, stately columns that look like something out of an ancient temple, it’s as if the visitor is entering a kind of temple to fiber arts in Maine.
“Intertwined: An Exhibition of Maine Fiber Arts” will be on view through Aug. 9. The Lord Hall gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 581-3245.
Some of the hanging works have the shape and concept of a quilt, but also show evidence of their process, with seams and frayed ends on display.
“There’s a different take on quilting,” Hicks said. “The strings are a big no-no [in traditional quilting], but this is saying the frayed edges are OK; we want the process and the materials to be present in what you see. Everything is not hidden away.”